Tag Archives: 5 stars

Terminal Peace (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse 3) by Jim C Hines

Stars: 5 out of 5

This was an excellent ending to what turned out to be a very good series. I will definitely check out other books by this author, because as far as introductions go, the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse knocked it out of the park.

This book effectively resolves the main issue of the first two books – the seemingly unresolvable Prodryan treat. How do you prevail over a species who considers all other species as inferior and the whole universe as their own playground, ripe for the taking? Where conquest is woven into the very DNA of a Prodryan? The only way to beat that is genocide, at least according to the Krakau Alliance. And we found out exactly to what lengths the Krakau are willing to go to accomplish that in the previous two books. But Marion “Mops” Adamapoulos and her crew might just have another solution…

I loved how unpredictable these books are. Every time I think I know the course which the story will take, the author manages to surprise me with a completely different resolution. I admit that I still have doubts about the feasibility of the solution proposed at the end of this book, but I admit that it’s beautifully accomplished. What solution? you might ask. Well, read the book to find out.

Mops also had a big obstacle to overcome in this book. One that is very personal and very terminal. It was both uplifting and bittersweet to embark on this journey with her and to see her slowly come to grips with her own condition and her place in the big picture. Mops grew a lot as a leader and a human being throughout the series. 

So did all the other characters as well. I was particularly impressed with how far Kumar came from the obsessive-compulsive cleaner he’d been in book 1. The great part is that he is still obsessive-compulsive, but he had matured as a person and discovered some inner depths that I frankly didn’t know he had. That’s the great thing about this series – the characters evolve and mature, but they fundamentally stay themselves. The growth is believable. They still act in character and the decisions they make are believable based on what we know of them. 

I admit that up until almost the end was wasn’t sure what kind of solution our crew would find to the Protryan problem short of full-on genocide or chemically altering an entire species which would also be a different kind of genocide. As I had mentioned earlier, the solution is quite beautifully done, even if I have doubts it would last long-term. I would be interested to see how it works out, if the author decides to revisit this world again in his later works. 

There are a number of characters I would like to follow up on, including Mops and all the Librarians on Earth. We end this book on a hopeful note, with a real cure for feral humanity. This is huge. How would that work out? A whole civilization to rebuild and hordes of feral humans to cure and re-educate. That’s a big task. Also, how will this new alliance work? How would the Prodryans interact with other species when they aren’t trying to conquer them?

All in all, this was a very good story – fast paced and full of twists and turns and engaging characters. And the Jynx are furry little balls of awesome.

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

The Thousand Eyes (The Serpent Gates 2) by A. K. Larkwood

 Stars: 5 out of 5

I had absolutely loved the fist book (and you can read my review here), so I had picked up this book with a certain amount of trepidation. Too often the second book in a series is much weaker than the fist one, serving just as sort of filler before the grand showdown in book 3. I am happy to report that that is not the case here. The second book is just as good as the first one. I am also happy that the author decided to turn this into a duology. We get to finish the journey with all our characters and wrap up all of their paths in more or less neat fashion. 

I will try to avoid spoilers, but let me just say that this book went in to a direction I wasn’t expecting at all, but that’s what made it such a fun and engaging read as well. I really didn’t know where the author would be taking the characters next, but I was so invested in their fates that I was happily along for the ride. Just be warned that the book turns rather dark at some points and things happen to both our characters and the people around them that would be considered nightmarish. 

This book raises several important questions. What is the definition of self? Is self-consciousness set in stone or can it evolve over time and circumstances? What happens when two different entities merge as one? Does one effectively dominate and destroy the other? Do they share the body and take turns? Or do they blend into something new, a combination of both entities? And what makes us human? Can divinities experience love and compassion? Can they change? 

It also asks the important question of how far would you go to save the person you care about. Does the desire to protect the one you love excuse the horrible things you have to do to keep them safe or to just remain by their side? Also, is the lack of compassion and a complete self-absorption the fault of a divine presence, or was it already part of the human soul that merged with it? So many important questions and so many different fates interwoven into this tory. I loved that each characters chose their own, often rather unique answer to them. Because everyone’s story is different. Just like in life. 

It’s an interesting story to navigate along with Czorwe, Tal, and Shutmili, because they are all seeking answers to those questions in their own deeply personal ways. I am also glad that everyone gets a (sort of) happy ending despite all the hardships fate puts them through along the way. Especially Tal, because the poor boy has suffered enough. 

All in all, it was a wonderful world that I enjoyed discovering alongside all characters. I wouldn’t mind revisiting it someday just to discover more strange worlds in the broken maze, even if the stories are told by a different set of characters. I will definitely be following this author closely and check out their new books.

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

Terminal Uprising (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse 2) by Jim C Hines

Stars: 5 out of 5.

The second book in the series didn’t disappoint either. It continues the story started in book 1 and amps up the stakes! 

The story picks up a couple months after the events of the last book where Mops and the crew of Pufferfish almost single-handedly saved the Krakau homeworld. Did they get thanked for that? Of course not. They are on the run, declared criminals in the Alliance. Their ship is falling apart and their future seems bleak. They really have no choice but to accept the highly illegal mission Admiral Pachelbel gives them in exchange for funds to keep the spaceship flight-worthy. Even if this mission brings them back to a place none of them wants to come back to – Earth.

We finally get to go back to Earth and the ruins of human civilization. And it’s made even more painful by the fact that we now know that humanity hadn’t destroyed itself, that the Krakau were directly responsible for destroying a whole civilization, then keeping it quiet for over 200 years.

It’s very interesting to see our ragtag band of characters confront this place of their biggest fears, but also grow and mature both as individuals and also as a group of people who had been thrown together by circumstances, but end up becoming a surrogate family. They count on each other, they understand each other’s flaws and strengths and they protect each other. That is wonderful to see in a book.

And of course, all the ingenious and non-standard ways they come up with to resolve some pretty dire situations is a delight to read about. Not to mention the dry and often dark humor that permeates this book and helps the reader and the characters survive some pretty horrible things.

I also loved the Librarians! It was a very nice touch to discover that not all humans turned feral. That a very small percentage of the population was immune to the Krakau venom. And that those survivors banded together not only to keep each other safe, but also to try and preserve all the knowledge of the human civilization for future human or whomever discovers Earth in the following centuries. It was also wonderful to see that the Librarians even had a program for helping feral humans.

It was wonderful to see those “non-altered” humans interact with our “cured” humans, because until that comparison, I didn’t fully realize just how different they were physiologically. Yes, if you look at it from the real humans’ perspective, the feral humans are basically zombies – lower body temperature, black blood that coagulates almost as soon as it touches the air, unable to feel pain, so they keep going even when the body is broken, and guided only by they most primal instincts. And restored humans keep all the physical attributes, but regain their intelligence on top of it. No wonder the rest of the galaxy fears those unkillable savages!

The story itself is also well-done in this book. This is the case where we can ask ourselves how far is too far when trying to save the world. Does the need of the many really outweigh the need of the few? Where is that thin line that separates us from the monster we are fighting against? I won’t spoil it any more than this. Just go read the book!

Terminal Alliance (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse 1) by Jim C Hines

Stars: 5 out of 5.

I think I discovered my new favorite space opera series! This book is funny, witty, and very-well constructed. We get alien races, world-shattering conspiracies, a galaxy on the brink of an all out war… and a group of janitors stuck in the midst of it all.

I really loved the fact that our would-be heroes are not highly trained infantry soldiers (well, apart from Monroe, who was infantry, but got injured so badly, half his body is is artificial). They are just a team of janitors on a spaceship that happen to be the only group still standing and in their right mind when a biological weapon is deployed against the entire crew. And even that is mostly due to chance. 

It’s interesting to see this group of people finding most unusual solutions to their problems and utilizing the full extent of their cleaning knowledge to effectively neutralize their reverted comrades without killing them, and to keep the giant ship afloat the best they can… not to mention, unearth a conspiracy, thwart a genocide and save an entire planet. I’d say that makes them pretty amazing, actually, especially for a species of aggressive monkeys that the rest of the aliens consider barely sentient.

Let’s mention that little twist, shall we? This story is set after humanity pretty much destroyed itself by turning all known humans into ferals. I would say it’s an equivalent of zombies, only the infected are not dead and do not decay. They are stronger, faster, don’t feel pain, can survive anything short of a decapitation… and are devoid of intelligence. They are basically driven by one instinct – hunt for food. And food can be anything – other humans, animals, aliens, trees, rocks, you name it. 

Once another alien species, the Krakau, figures out how to cure those feral humans, they realize that they have a loyal and virtually unstoppable army at the tip of their tentacles. No wonder the mere mention of humans instills fear in the hearts of other alien species. Only not everything is as it seems and humanity saviors might not be as innocent as they are portrayed to be. For more information on that matter, read the book.

I loved all the characters I encountered in this book, especially Mops and her crew. They have their own quirks, but they are all very relatable and likeable. and Puffy, don’t get me started on Puffy!

This is definitely a series worth reading for the story, the (somewhat dark) humor, the wonderful characters. I am definitely picking up book 2.

Defiant (Towers Trilogy 2) by Karina Sumner-Smith

Stars: 5 out of 5

I remember absolutely loving Radiant, the first book in the series, so I came to this one with a certain amount of trepidation. Often the middle books in a trilogy are the weakest, because they only serve as a bridge between the beginning and the inevitable resolution in book 3. I’m glad to see that this was not the case with the Towers trilogy. The second book expands on the story of the first one and does an excellent job of showing us different facets of this world.

And what world it is! I think this is one of the most unique post-apocalyptical settings I’ve seen in books or movies. A world where the person’s inner magic is the currency by which they are judged. The more magically powerful you are, the better your life will be. The most magically-adept people live in the comfort of the floating Towers, the least magical people are forced to scrape by in the ruined Lower City sprawling under their shadow. And there are different strata within the Lower City as well. It’s a complex and fascinating system. There is even a version of zombies there, and I loved that their existence is given an explanation that makes sense. 

I love it when the world abides by the rules defined by the author, or there is a good explanation when those rules are broken. This is always a sign that the author put a lot of thought into the creation of their world and story, and I respect that. I also love slowly discovering those rules and learning more about the world the characters live in. This book gave me that in spades.

And I think both Xhea and Shai are excellent characters. I love their interactions and their friendship. It’s rare to find a YA book that focuses on a healthy female friendship instead of a romance. We need more of those. That friendship and attachment shines through the entire book even though Shai and Xhea spend most of it apart. This forced separation was used to advance the story. It made both Xhea and Shai confront their fears and insecurities and decide what they stand for. They both discovered that there are lines they are not willing to cross and that there are people they care about. 

We also learned a lot more about the origin of the Towers and Xhea’s black magic. And also about why things are so dire in Lower City despite the efforts of its citizens to make improvements. 

I am very interested to see the conclusion of this story in book 3. So far, this is one of my favorite series.

The Liar of Red Valley by Walter Goodwater

 Stars: 5 out of 5

I absolutely loved this book, y’all! This gave me the same vibes as American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett, only with a much more reliable protagonist. 

Sadie’s mother was the Liar of Red Valley. A position that gave her a certain power with its inhabitants. They didn’t like her, they certainly didn’t trust her, but they still came to her and paid for her to tell lies on their behalf. But now she is dead, and Sadie needs to figure out how to become the next Liar. She also needs to find her mom’s ledger, keep all the other ledgers safe, oh, and save Red Valley from total destruction. No worries.

As I said, this book is what is often referred to as American weird. The world is very much like our own, but certain things lurk in the shadows that are not human. The people of Red Valley know about them, and they also know the rules that let everybody coexist more or less peacefully. Newcomers though… well, either they learn, or they don’t. The things in the shadows have to be fed from time to time too, after all.

I liked the atmosphere of Red Valley. This could be any run-down town in the American heartland. I drove through a lot of those. Closed and boarded up businesses on Main street, a couple cafes and diners barely surviving on local and sometimes tourist traffic, a few jobs supporting the local Walmart, drugs, alcohol, despair for the rest of the residents. The fact that there are some supernatural elements to this setup isn’t all that far-fetched. After all, what do we know about those other crumbling town all over our nation? All we see when we drive through are boarded up windows. There might be their own kinds of weird residents staring at us from within. 

Most of my enjoyment with this book came from following Sadie. She is a great protagonist right from the start. She is relatable. She is very human, even when faced with hard situations. I loved her and rooted for her from the get go. And I loved her even more once I discovered a few things about her that I won’t talk about because I don’t want to spoil it.

The book is also well-written. There is plenty of tension and the story moves at a good pace. It’s not so fast that the reader doesn’t have time to get to know the characters or take a breather between action scenes. It is also not so slow that the reader would get bored. All the information about Red Valley is introduced in measured dozes and exactly when needed, without resorting to the dreaded info-dumps. 

All in all, this is one my favorite books I read in 2022 so far and I highly recommend it.

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

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next 1) by Jasper Fforde

Stars: 5 out of 5

 I have a difficult time describing this book other than that I absolutely loved it! It’s well written and engaging, and the world is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I’m not sure how to classify it. Is it alternate history? Is it urban fantasy? Is it steampunk? Or maybe a little bit of both and none of them at the same time? You see what I mean?

Thursday Next is a Litera Agent who investigates all sorts of literary crimes, which include forgery, book theft and other, more fantastical occurrences, like the kidnapping of famous literary characters straight out of a book and into the real world… or the disappearance of a real person into a book. Yes, things like that happen in Thursday’s world.

And what an interesting world it is. An alternate history Europe where the Crimean war never ended. Where there was no Russian revolution, and airplanes were never invented because why invent something new when blimps work perfectly fine? So it is a weird world that is similar to our in some ways (telephones, cars, etc.), but very different in others: it has a ChronoGuard branch of SpecOps after all, so time travel and time manipulation is a common practice. People use credit cards, but the names of the banks are as foreign to us as if they were written in Chinese. And names like Jack Shitt, Victor Analogy or Thursday Next are common and perfectly normal.

In fact, I could help but think that while Thursday was investigating book theft and manipulation of written narrative, her own world was also a book. Which, ironically, it is. I’m reading it. And it’s so fun to see the author kind of playing with this idea, even if it’s never mentioned. Usually writers try to make their created worlds convincing, so that the readers can get lost exploring this brand new plane of existence at their leisure and forget that they are reading a book. Don’t get me wrong, Thursday’s world is convincing. It has an inner logic. But it’s also very “bookish”. And it’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s a very fun and wild ride.

Part of my enjoyment for this book is due to our protagonist. Thursday Next is an awesome character! She is flawed and deeply wounded by her time fighting in Crimea. She can be stubborn and unyielding, but she is also smart and has a lot of heart. I was really rooting for her from the beginning. Plus, she has a pet dodo. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with a pet dodo! I am glad that Thursday managed to resolve some of her issues by the end of this book, even if that resolution was a little bit on the nose for me.

That might be the only small gripe for me – the villain in this book was very, almost comic-book, villainous. But that works well with the idea that Thursday’s world is also a book, so while I would have loved to have a little more depth to Hades’ character, he worked well for the story.

There are plenty of other interesting characters in this book that don’t get enough spotlight, in my opinion. And judging how well-written this book is, my thought is that they will be covered in the next books. Like we mention Spike and his job policing the vampire and werewolf population, but this isn’t expanded upon. Thursday acts like the existence of supernatural beings is common knowledge in this world, but again, the reader doesn’t get any other explanation. Hopefully, we will explore this aspect of the world more in subsequent books, because I quite like Spike.

There is also the case of Thursday seeing her older self in a rather bad situation and stashing a gun for her other self  to use. That scene doesn’t happen in the timeline of the first book, so I can only hope that this is something significant to the plot in the next instalments. 

All in all, I absolutely loved this book and I will definitely read the next book in the series just to see more of this crazy world and what happens to Thursday.

The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

 Stars: 5 out of 5

Most epic fantasy books end with our mighty heroes defeating the big bad and riding into the sunset and their happy ever after. But ask yourself this question – what happens after the sun sets? What does that ever after look like? Especially if you spent years preparing for this one battle, dedicated your whole life to it. If you walked from it physically and mentally scarred and lost your heart in the process? This is what this book is about. 

Kreya was the leader of the Five Heroes of Vos, the brave crew who defeated the nefarious bone maker Eklor… but that was 25 years ago. And she lost everything in that battle – she lost her husband, who took a fatal arrow trying to protect one of their friends. This death broke Kreya – they were supposed to spend their life together after this battle, to travel the world and experience life to the fullest, to see and do everything they had put on hold while they were saving the world. They were supposed to grow old together. Now Kreya had 25 solitary years trying to resurrect her dead husband using the research of the very monster they sacrificed so much to defeat.

It was interesting to see that famed ever after and follow a band of heroes in their lives after the main story had seemingly ended. I found the portrayal of how these people would try to rebuild their lives after such a traumatic event very realistic. Some try to rebuild their lives and become successful, and never ever think about the war again. Some found a family and find happiness in a quiet life. Some are so broken that their mind fractures over time, and some, like Kreya, put their entire life on hold in order to bring back the person they love.

I also loved that even though they hadn’t seen each other in years, when one of them needs help, they all gather around that person and offer all the help they can. Sure, some will grumble about it, but they will still do it. That’s what true friends are. And like true heroes, when a new evil threatens their country, they will still rise to the occasion.

As you can see, I absolutely loved the characters. All six of our heroes are very human, with their flaws and their battle scars. And yes, I include Stren’s wife in this, because she is just as much part of the crew this time around as the original 5. They make mistakes, they doubt themselves, they don’t want to be responsible for saving the world again, but they still do it when they realize that nobody else will. 

I would have loved a bit more details about the world. It’s mentioned that Vos is built entirely on mountaintops, that a perpetual mist shrouds the valleys between the peaks and monsters live in that mist. I would have loved to learn a bit more about that. Is this a natural occurrence? Is this the result of some ancient war? Are other countries like that as well or not? Unfortunately, there are no answers to these questions.

But this gripe notwithstanding, this was an excellent book. I highly recommend it for fantasy fans out there.

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

The Moonsteel Crown (Dominion 1) by Stephen Deas

Stars: 5 out of 5

I must admit that I loved this book, despite a couple flaws. But those flaws are too small to mention and didn’t take anything from the sheer pleasure of discovering the rich world the author created and following the characters. 

I think that the characters are the biggest strength of this book. We follow three of them: Seth, a failed priest, Fingers, a thief and pickpocket, and Myla, a sun-monk on the run from her past. They are all flawed. All three have their own fears, hang-ups, and delusions. They aren’t good people by any means, but neither are they bad. They are very human and relatable, even if I had the urge to smack Fingers upside the head on more than one occasion. But truth be told, I have that urge with some of my real life friends as well.

It is truly a delight to follow these three characters through the story and watch them make mistakes, do stupid, and sometimes rather ugly things to each other, and be fully invested in their lives. Because they are human and relatable. Because I understood their motives and I wanted to see them find some kind of meaning to their lives. Not to mention, I wanted them to survive the events of this book so that they could find that meaning.

 I would say that one of the flaws is that the villains are less developed. We get more background with Sulfane eventually, so we understand what makes him do what he does. We don’t get much about Blackhand. He doesn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities. He is ruthless and doesn’t hesitate to double-cross his friends and allies when it suits him. He treats even the members of his own gang like shit most of the time, especially Seth. So I had to wonder why people like Fings and Wil were so loyal to him? Why go to any lengths to rescue him after everything he’s done? I would understand this if Blackhand was ruthless to the outsiders but fair and protective of his own crew, but we never get an indication of that. In fact, he is a shit leader, no matter how you look at it. But that’s a small flaw.

I loved the worldbuilding in this book. Even though the action takes place in one city – Varr (and around it), we get a feeling for a much waster world with a rich and ancient history. Even Varr is a city of many layers, with ruins, palaces, temples and hovels, and forgotten catacombs, that point towards thousands of years of civilization.

I liked that we are introduced to this world organically, through conversations between characters, through snippets in books and stories, through small mentions relevant to the story itself. There are no info-dumps or characters telling each other things they should know just for the benefit of the reader. That way the reader discovers more about the world gradually and is kept interested in learning more. In fact, I definitely want to read the next book and find out more about Dead Men and mages and what happened to the Baleful Eye in the sky. 

While I don’t particularly approve the route Seth chose by the end of this book, and I see the enormous potential for abuse and the risk of him turning into a monster worse than Blackhand, I definitely want to learn more about the secrets he uncovered.

So all in all, this is an excellent first book in a series. It tells a complete story, introduces interesting characters, and makes you want to pick up the next installment. 

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

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

Stars: 5 out of 5.

This was an amazingly, delightfully creepy book! The older I get, the less I seem to enjoy horror books, especially the gore and guts kind of horror. I still enjoy the atmospheric, psychological horror, but I find it hard to find good book that don’t repeat the same tired clichés or manage to completely botch the ending. I’m glad I picked up The Hollow Places, because this book delivered.

I think the best part about it is how slowly it develops the creep factor. We start in this wonderful little museum of improbable and impossible things that might look scary and unusual, but are, most of them fake. And our protagonist is someone who grew up in that museum. Who knows every nook and cranny of that building, who played among the display cases and hugged the stuffed animals as if they were her childhood friends. To Kara, or “Carrot” how her family and friends call her, the museum is the safest place on earth. This is a refuge when her family life is shattered by a divorce. A chance to regroup and start over.

And the author takes time to set the stage and introduce us to Kara and her uncle, as well as the museum itself. It’s done in such a way that as a reader, I was in love with the little building as well. I was feeling warm and safe there.

So when creepy and unexplained things start happen in this safe place, it completely knocks the ground from under your feet along with the protagonist. The horror of what’s happening has an even bigger impact because it is intruding into this safe zone.

The author also introduces the horrors of the Willows very progressively. At first, it just looks like a slightly creepy, but ultimately benign world. Yes, it’s flooded. Yes, there are bunkers everywhere, but no people. Yes, the willows are strange, but they are just trees, right? As more an more bizarre things happen to our protagonists, as the level of horror slowly ramps up, so did my blood pressure. I felt for them. I felt with them, especially after the school bus and their realization that they lost their bunker, and that they are possibly stuck in this weird no-man’s land forever.

I loved Kara. She is funny, she is a mess, but she is so relatable. Maybe because I’ve been in her shoes, with a messy divorce and a husband that acted exactly the same way. Yes, Carrot was slightly too stupid to live when it came to one particular object, but I can let it slide, because I liked everything else about her.

And Simon! If I had to get lost in a weird in-between place of existence with somebody, he would be my first choice. He is cool under pressure, and funny, and also relatable. 

And special shoutout to Beau, the bestest, most adorable cranky cat in literature. 

As I mentioned, the horror in this slowly builds up and finds its culmination when the safe place suddenly becomes unsafe. Unlike other horror books I’ve read recently, the author didn’t drop the ball here. The resolution is satisfying and the ending is everything I wanted it to be. And even though our protagonist win in th end, they are left with physical and emotional scars, which is also very logical and realistic. 

All in all, this was a very enjoyable book. I will definitely recommend it to my friends and I will check out other books by this author. Heck, I already told my husband he absolutely needs to read it.