Tag Archives: book review

Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card

Stars: 2 out of 5.

Sometimes even authors we like disappoint us. Ender’s Game is still close to the top of my list of favorite scifi books. I re-read it several times since I discovered it in my tender teens and had my mind blown away. So to say that I was excited to get my hands on this new book by Orson Scott Card is an understatement. I couldn’t wait to read it! I dove into it as soon as I got it! And… I don’t know… I guess I am not the right audience for his YA books.

I mean the story itself had potential. Kids with micropowers and being ostracized because of them? Excellent. A support group that lets them explore those powers and find useful applications for them or at least to come to terms with having them? Very good. A commentary on friendship and the concept of found family? I’m along for the ride. Add to it a missing person case and cooperation with the police, and this sounded like the perfect book.

Unfortunately, even though these sounded like great individual elements, the mixture turned out to be rather underwhelming. Even though the book is very well written and easy to read, I had several problems with the story.

First of all, the incessant banter between the characters. For a solitary kid, Ezekiel sure talks a lot. While some of it was fun and relevant to the story, but most of it is just that… banter that has nothing to do with the story itself and just fills page after page with words. I think the author wanted to show us how his protagonist thinks and feels by making him talk about irrelevant stuff, but to me it was mostly a snooze fest. I found myself skipping pages upon pages of dialogues that could have been cut without loosing any story at all.

My second problem is with Ezekiel himself. Some of his actions, especially towards the end of the book, make no sense. He is almost 17, not 12. He is painted to be a thoughtful and smart kid… yet he chooses to ditch a cop, who is armed and trained to take down criminals, and go rescue his friend with his dad instead who is… a butcher and doesn’t even own a gun. And that after he HEARD at least 2 criminals being at the place his friend is held at. Two unarmed civilians against criminals who are known to torture and kill their victims. Right. What can go wrong?

And deriving from that second frustration is my next one – there are no consequences to this stupidest move of the century. This whole rescue and taking down of the villains goes way too easily and bloodlessly. The resolution isn’t on par with the stakes. At no point during the book did I feel a real sense of danger or worry for the characters. I understand that this is YA, but the author describes serious crimes here: sex trafficking, kidnapping, murder, etc. Yet the language is so sanitized that it doesn’t grip you. The incessant dialogues about nothing inter-spaced in the story might also be at fault.

Finally, I found that apart from Ezekiel, his dad, and his friend, none of the other characters were particularly developed. The micropower support group kids had no personality beyond their individual powers. Heck, I can’t even remember their names. The cop was… a cop who really wanted to save that little girl and was willing to use unconventional methods to do it. Other than that, he is a blank page. And the school counselor? Why was she even in the story to begin with?

So in the end, this book was a disappointment. The brew didn’t turn out quite like I had expected. Maybe because of the addition of too many different ingredients. I think I might go re-read Ender’s Game.

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

The Ten thousand doors of january by Alix E. Harrow

Stars: 3.5 rounded up.

January is an in-between kind of girl. Born to a black father and a probably white mother in the early 1900s, raised by a wealthy patron in huge house full of treasures and wonders pilfered from around the world by her father. Her status is in-between also – not quite a pupil, not quite a servant, maybe a rare find too alive to go into a display case? Until she finds a leather-bound book and opens a door that leads into a different world…

This book is about discovering your own worth and coming into your own strength. It’s about realizing that if you spend your life cutting vital parts of yourself just to fit in to a rigid mold that somebody else created for you, you might look like a perfect little girl on the outside, but you will feel empty and miserable inside.

January tried very hard to be what Mr. Locke expected her to be – silent, almost invisible, perfectly well behaved. A breathing, living doll. What else was she supposed to do when her father was never there to tell her otherwise and when her whole world depended on the good graces of that distant and almighty man who took her and her father in when she was just an infant? But all this time she had felt lonely, empty, miserable, like half of her has been cut off and shut in one of the glass cabinets filling the Locke House.

So when she picks up the silver knife and writes letters into her own flesh, she doesn’t only open a door to a different reality – she also throws open the door to her own cell, the one Mr. Locke had been building around her since her childhood. By stepping through the threshold between worlds, she sets herself free to be what she wants to be – wild and free, and fearless, a wanderer of worlds.

This book is also about our perception of ourselves and the world around us, and about how often things are not what they seem to be. Monsters can hide behind perfectly benign masks. A meek half-blooded girl can turn into a fierce untamed spirit that will blow open all kinds of doors.

I liked this story a lot, but I felt like the beginning dragged. I understand that we needed to immerse ourselves in the oppressive structure of January’s early existence in Locke House, but I feel that this part could have been condensed without loosing much of the effect. She could have found that book earlier. She could have read it over a longer period of time. That way we wouldn’t have had chapter after chapter of seemingly unrelated story wedged into the part of January’s narrative that had just started picking up speed, suspense and tension. It really kills the flow of the book and was a source of frustration for me.

Once the issue of the book is finally over and we don’t get the endless interruptions in the narrative flow, the story picks up speed and becomes much more interesting. There is suspense, there are high stakes and satisfying conclusions. The ending was maybe too neatly wrapped up in a little pink bow for my taste, but I am a cynic at heart, so don’t mind me.

My other complaint about this book is that the only really fleshed-out characters are January, her parents, and her dog Bad (short for Sinbad), and the parents aren’t even present for 90% of the story. All other characters are walking labels put there to advance the story. The mysterious, maybe good, maybe bad Mr. Locke, who serves as a father figure for January in her real father’s continued absence. There is the inevitable love interest, and the mysterious lady protector/friend that was sent by her real father… They never develop personalities outside of those stereotypes. That’s probably why I was more upset when the bad people hurt Bad then when they threatened to hurt January’s love interest (heck, after finishing the book, I can’t even remember his name).

But despite those two gripes, this was a rather enjoyable book. I liked the world, I loved the fact that unlike a lot of urban fantasies now, it’s set in the past century, not in our modern times. I liked the story of one in-between girl deciding to forge her own path and create her own destiny instead of conforming to the image everyone else had of her.

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

A pilgrimage of swords by Anthony ryan

Stars: 3 out of 5.

This was an okay novella. From what I understood, it serves as a prequel or introduction to a new series, and as such, it did a good job introducing the main character, Pilgrim, as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse into the world he inhabits.

Unfortunately, the story fell rather short for me. We follow the journey of several characters who are thrown together because all of them chose to undertake a pilgrimage into the domain of a mad god, in the hope that he will grant their most sacred wish. As such, they should all have their own stories, right? Something that pushed them to this act of desperation. And desperation it is, because nobody ever returned from the realm of the Mad God…

Yet, we don’t really SEE those characters, because because they don’t have personalities of their own. They are cutouts with labels put on top of them – the terminally sick woman and her grieve-stricken husband, the fierce huntress searching for a lost loved one, etc. It doesn’t help that we follow this journey through the Pilgrim’s eyes and his voice is just as bland as the description of the other characters. Seriously, the only character with any grain of personality in this book is the cursed sword. He is a homicidal demon, but at least he has some nuances.

As such, it’s hard to empathize with the characters, and if some of them die gruesome deaths, I just shrugged and read along. I think the only character I felt any empathy for was Priest, but mostly because I never learned what his purpose for this pilgrimage was. What was he going to ask of his god? Why had he volunteered to lead this doomed group?

My other problem was that I couldn’t figure out Pilgrim’s motivation either. For seeing this story entirely from his POV, we get no insight into his inner thoughts. Apart from the banter with his cursed sword, there is nothing. He is painted as this ruthless killer, a scourge upon the world, but his actions go against that picture. Also, his reaction when discovering Book’s true identity in the later part of the story goes against his whole character, especially when we learn in the last page of this story that he dedicated his life to destroying that particular church and its adepts.

I liked the little I saw of the worldbuilding and the hints at other cultures and religions inhabiting it, but I’m not sure I liked that enough to follow Pilgrim for a whole book or a whole series.

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

Recursion by blake crouch

Stars: 4 out of 5.

I requested this book from NetGalley on a whim. The blurb was interesting and I had enjoyed the first book in the Wayward Pines trilogy, but I didn’t have many expectations. It could have gone either way for me. Boy, am I glad that I got to read this!

It’s hard to review this book without giving away too much of the plot, so I will avoid talking about the story itself. Let’s just say that Blake Crouch raises interesting questions about how humans perceive time and space and that our memories define who we are. He also suggests that if our memories of past events become unreliable, humans will most likely unravel. 

If you have memories of two distinctly different lives suddenly pushed into your head, what do you do? Both feel real. You can remember seeing your daughter die in a hit and run when she was 16, but you ALSO remember going to her college graduation. In fact, she is sitting next to you right now. Worse still, SHE remembers dying as well… but she is still alive. What is real? What isn’t? What if you suddenly have 4 or 5 different lives in you head? All yours. All real. No wonder there are mass suicides all over the globe.

This story is told through the eyes of two protagonists: Helena, a neuro-scientist obsessed with creating a memory reactivation device that would save her mother from the slow deterioration of Alzheimer’s disease, and Barry, a NY detective who witnesses a woman jump off a high rise after she claims she a case of FMS or false memory syndrome. At first, it seems that those stories aren’t connected, but they meet and interweave together nicely. 

I loved both protagonists. Barry is believable as a man who has nothing left to live for, so he clings to the mystery of the jumper with FMS and continues investigating it even when everyone rules it out as simple suicide. Then, when he gets a chance to rewrite his past, but has to face the consequences of that act, I fully understood why he wanted to destroy the people who put him through that heartache again.

Helena is even more tragic. All she wanted to do was help her mother keep at least some of the memories that were being eaten away by the horrible disease. Instead, she precipitated the destruction of human civilization. And she has to live with it… over and over again.

I also liked the way Blake Crouch portrayed the time paradox and the effect altering timelines would have on people. I don’t think I have seen this particular take on time travel before. It was original and it made sense, in a horrible kind of way.

So why did I give this book 4 stars instead of 5 if I liked it so much? It mostly has to do with the ending. More precisely, the theory that changing one event would undo the whole string of time paradoxes. I won’t go into any details on that, because this book shouldn’t be spoiled, but I will just say that that sounded like an easy way out to me. 

In any case, I highly recommend this book for fans of time-travel, sci-fi and “what if” stories. It’s fast paced and smartly written, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

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

The Grand Dark by richard kadrey

Stars: 2 out of 5 (and that’s pushing it because at least the language is good)

I love the Sandman Slim series, so I really, REALLY, wanted to love this book… I was so excited to receive the ARC from Netgalley that I pushed all my other half-read books aside to start this as soon as possible. Unfortunately, my excitement soon turned into bewilderment, then annoyance, then boredom. I finished it only because I was already 75% done and felt like I’d already suffered enough torture to stick around and see the ending… which was nothing to call home about.

So what went wrong with this book? Oh where do I begin? Get comfortable, it’s gonna take a while.

First and biggest problem, in my opinion, is the pacing. NOTHING, and I mean, nothing happens in the first 3/4 of the book. The protagonist delivers some packages, then goes home to get high on drugs and have sex with his girlfriend. Rinse, repeat. for over 300 pages!!!

Then the action suddenly picks up around page 300 and we careen to the end at a neck breaking speed. It would be good if the pacing was justified, but it feels exhausting, almost as if the author suddenly realized that he only had 400 odd pages to tell the story and decided to cram all of it in the last 100 instead of editing the beginning and cutting most of the boring bits out. The action feels more like an outline that has been hastily fleshed out just enough to pass mustard. And the big reveal, final big bad, as well as the ending are underwhelming to say the least.

I might have been okay with the lack of story in the beginning if the protagonist was interesting enough to follow along with. But Largo is anything but. He is a doormat. He has no initiative. All his life he simply floats with the current thinking only about his next score or his girlfriend. He doesn’t DRIVE the story, he just floats along in the current. So when it’s not even clear where that current is going, this gets boring very fast.

And even when he actually decides to do something, he doesn’t actually have to work to accomplish anything. There are no real efforts on his part.

He needs to make an urgent delivery and his tires are slashed? Hey, perfect time for character growth and for the author to actually make him DO something to change his circumstance… But no, another courtier, who was never mentioned as being his friend, lends him her bike. Why? Because reasons only known to the author. Mostly, I suspect to move the story along.

He decides to go to Higher Proszawa, which is a battlefield and a quarantine zone off limits for everyone. Does he plan this trip? Does he, you know, gather supplies, investigate the means of getting there an back? Actually do something to get this done? Nope… He just mentions this to his friend Raineer and magically, everything is taken care off. He suddenly has money, and a weapon, and a convenient way in and out via a smuggler his friend knows. Everything handed to him on a sliver platter.

I could go on and on about this, but that would just be beating a dead horse. This character is as interesting as a doorknob. And he is the protagonist, which can tell you a lot about the other characters in this book. They are all cardboard cutouts that have a role to play to push the doormat Largo along. The girlfriend who has zero personality apart from being beautiful and in love with Largo. And her sole purpose in the story is to get captured to push the protagonist into action (or what passes for action for this one). The best friend and wounded veteran that conveniently still has all his contacts and can part with a wad of cash even though he lives in a dilapidated apartment on a meager government pension. And so on, and so forth.

And finally, the worldbuilding really sucks. We are told there was a great war that Lower Proszawa won, but we don’t know when that happened, and who they were fighting against. The other party is only ever mentioned as the Enemy. We also know absolutely nothing about the world outside of this city. I think one other “provincial” town is mentioned once, because a character was born there. Other than that, the rest of the world might as well not exist at all.

In fact, at one point, I even wondered if Lower Proszawa was actually a purgatory for all the souls that died in the war. That would have explained the lack of information about the outside world or why the details of the Great War are so fuzzy, or why they live in constant fear of a new war… Now that’s a twist I would have welcomed. Unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be.

What we have instead is a sub-par story with a boring protagonist in a barely fleshed out world. Very disappointing book from the author of Sandman Slim series. I definitely won’t recommend it. Save your money and your time for other books.

in the shadow of spindrift house by mira grant

Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

I have bad luck with Mira Grant books. Feed is about to join the permanent DNF pile because I have been stuck at 85% for over six months. Now this book…

The story has promise – four childhood friends on the cusp of adulthood decide to take one last case before disbanding their teen investigation agency. If they succeed at this case, they will earn over 7 million dollars which would have them set for whatever future paths they want to take. Only the case hasn’t been solved in decades for a reason, and the price they all will have to pay might be too high…

I picked up In the Shadow of Spindrift House because of the cover and the decidedly lovecraftian vibe the blurb gave off. To be honest, the story manages to keep that feeling, since it deals with things slithering in the deep and observing the human race run its rat race from the comfortable viewpoint of almost immortality, but the end product is underwhelming, at least for me.

My problem with Mira Grant’s books is that I can’t connect to the characters. I think it’s because the author “tells us” about their emotional connections to each other, but never really “shows us”. Case in point – we are told several times that Harley is in love with Addy, but her actions during this story don’t show this. Plus Addy is portrayed as such a negative light throughout the book that I found it hard to believe that Harley was in love with her. Especially since we don’t “see” that love in her actions, we are just told of that feeling through her thoughts. 

And that’s the case with the dynamics between all four characters. We are told they have been close since childhood. We are told they have been solving cases together and are kinda sorta famous, but we are not shown any of it. So when the horrors start creeping in and bad things happen to the characters… yes, it’s horrible, but not as shocking as it could have been, because as a reader, we haven’t seen that emotional connection that is supposed to exist between Harley and them.

And I think that is the biggest flaw of this story. Harley is too detached from everything, even before she leads her team to the doomed exploration of Spindrift House. Heck, she shows more emotion towards that house than she does towards any of her longtime friends, almost brother, and what she herself calls the love of her life… Yet, she casts them all aside seemingly without as much as an afterthought. 

Maybe if the book wasn’t this short, the author could have had time to build to the horror of this last case by showing us how the characters interacted BEFORE it all happened. Maybe actually show us some of the other cases they did together. Show us the dynamic in their little team… If we saw those connections instead of being told they exist, the stakes of what happened in Spindrift House would have been much higher and more impactful.

So to summarize, it’s a well-written book when it comes to creating descriptions and the creepy atmosphere of the house, but that suffers from the excessive case of tell, not show.

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

Dead Eye (Tiger’s Eye Mystery 1) by Alyssa Day

Stars: 4 out of 5

I liked this book surprisingly more than I expected, even though the story isn’t particularly original and neither is the world. We have typical vampires, werepeople of various kind, witches and other supernatural creatures briefly mentioned. I think one of the characters mentions having a gorgon for sister-in-law, and another brief mention of a banshee.

The world building itself is rather confusing. It’s implied that their existence is known to the general public, but the book stays vague as to how this works. Jack was part of the rebellion and fought in vampire wars, but apart from those mentions, we don’t know what that means to the characters in this world. He sure isn’t considered a criminal or wanted by the authorities, even though he was practically the leader of the rebellion at one point. So, confusing. Hopefully, the author will expand on this a bit more in subsequent books.

So with confusing worldbuilding and ordinary story, it seemed at first that this book was heading towards a 1 star review or even my DNF pile, but then something magical happened: I actually really loved the characters. Loved them enough to continue reading and even wanting to get the next book in the series.

Tess is a refreshingly normal protagonist, even if she can see how people will die when she touches them. By normal I mean, she isn’t a shrinking violet, or a “strong female protagonist” which usually means someone who talks back, doesn’t accept any kind of authority and never pauses to think before she starts kicking asses. She is no damsel in distress either. She is just a normal girl who loves her pawn shop, cares about her family and friends, and doesn’t want anything bad to happen to them. So she resolves to do something about it, because seems like nobody else is there to step up and do it. No, she won’t suddenly learn kung fu. No, she won’t discover some badass magical abilities that would help her overpower the big bad. No, she won’t turn into Sherlock Holmes and save the day with her uncanny powers of deduction. But she will stand up, strangle that fear that makes her insides quiver, and do what she can to protect those she loves and to right a wrong. I loved Tess. I want more protagonists like her.

And I also loved Jack because, surprisingly for the alpha male love interest in a paranormal romance book, he is not an asshole. Oh he tries to be pushy and protective from time to time, but he also knows the boundaries and that no means no. It is hard to find a male character in paranormal romance who actually respects the protagonist enough to back down when she tells him no. Or one that treats her as a smart capable individual who is equal to him, instead of a sexual partner who needs to be protected, coddled, and occasionally listed to… maybe… to stop the whining.

I also loved the fact that the author avoided the typical cringe worthy tropes of evil / psycho exes for both protagonists. Owen is a sweet person. A genuinely good guy. And their break up isn’t because he mistreats Tess or because the author needed to clear out the way for Jack. It’s two adults deciding that while they like each other and are good friends, they do not love each other enough to be more than that.

I think that’s what I like the most in this book and what made me give it 4 stars – most of the characters feel like real people. They might be good, bad, or somewhere in between, but they feel like real tridimensional people with their own needs and wants and personal agendas that are separate from the story and the protagonist. Dead End feels like a real town and I would love to explore it more.

So to summarize, if you want a light story with engaging characters and minimum fabricated drama – definitely give Dead Eye a try. I will be buying the next book in the series for sure.

The Rising Dead by Devan Saglian

Stars: 2 out of 5

I like to indulge in a good old zombie book from time to time, and I was fresh out of zombies (no pun intended), so I decided to give this book a try. After all, it had a lot of glowing review on both Amazon and Goodreads… I don’t know why.

Seriously, the story is cookie cutter zombie outbreak: evil corporation plays with viruses, but something goes wrong and the strain escapes. Cue brain eating zombies everywhere. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind a predictable story in the zombie-verse. After all, there are only so many ways to make a brain eating undead.

The story can be predictable as long as the characters living (or dying) in these events are interesting, fleshed out and likeable (or hateable) enough for me to want to see who meets their gruesome end and who survives despite all odds. Unfortunately, this book has nothing of the sort. All characters are cardboard cutouts with about as much personality. You can just put labels on them and be done with it: the shy geek, the college baseball jock, the slutty partying girl, the meek girl who gets eaten first, the grizzled paranoid war veteran, etc. They are all essentially faceless and characterless, and I didn’t feel any connections to any of them. Oh, someone else got eaten by zombies? Good for them!

And to add insult to injury, the story is riddled with inconsistencies and plot holes. For example, the patient zero gets infected by just spilling some of the virus and inhaling it because he didn’t have his mask on. So then the pathogen is airborne, right?.. Nope. After that first time, ALL other victims are infected through direct contact only – you get bitten, you turn. So why would the virus suddenly change its MO? Why mention it in the first place? It makes no sense. Patient Zero could have been bitten by a test animal, had a fresh papercut and a hole in his gloves, etc. Possibilities are endless…

The final nail on the coffin for me was the lack of editing. And I’m not talking about spelling and grammar here. I can deal with that if the story is worth it. I’m talking about the constant “head hopping” in the middle of scenes. We would listen to the POV of one character, then suddenly hop into the head of another for 2-3 lines, then go back to the first character. It happened so many times it gave me whiplash. You can write a book with different points of views, but be consistent throughout your scenes!

So to summarize, I finished the book, because it was a slow day and I was particularly bored. But I will not give my money to read the sequel. If I want good fast zombies, excellent action scenes, and characters I can actually care about and be sad when they get bitten, I’ll rewatch Train to Bussan.

Apocalypse Nyx by Kameron Hurley

Stars: 3 out of 5.

This is a  tough review to write. See, I loved the world Kameron Hurley created,  but I deeply disliked our protagonist. Yet Nyx is the product of that word. So that awesome world building that I found so fascinating produced a protagonist so unlikable, that I actually wished the bad guys killed her before the end of the book.

The planet Nyx lives on isn’t Earth, but it was colonized by people from Earth, who brought with them their religion, their problems, and their conflicts.  This is a harsh and unforgiving world: the radiation from its suns produces all kinds of cancers in populations too poor to live behind protective barriers reserved to the elite. Most of the planet is a desert and resources are hard to come by, so nations are in a perpetual war against each other.

It’s a war without rules or boundaries, where radioactive and chemical weapons are used so often, most border towns are contaminated beyond repair, and locals don’t even take cover during daily air strikes.

Nyx lives in a nation that has been at war with its neighbor long before she was born and will still be waging that war long after she dies. Everyone is conscripted into the army when they reach adulthood, but the amount of time men and women serve is different. Women go in for two years and assume most of the command posts. Men go in for 30 years and are considered cannon fodder. Most never come back from that war, or come back broken beyond repair.

Nyx experience unnameable horrors in that war and even perpetrated some of them. She was so badly injured that she had to be “remade”, which means that over 80% of her body isn’t hers anymore. Worse than that, she has been mentally damaged as well. She has severe PTSD and survivor’s guilt. She has vivid nightmares and flashbacks to her times on the front line and she can be unpredictable in those moments. Well, no, I take that back, you can pretty much guarantee that she would lash out with extreme violence.

She chose to think only about her own survival and not get attached to anyone or anything. She is harsh and abrasive, downright violent at times with both her enemies and her partners, and she wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice them all to save her own skin.

I understand why Nyx is the way she is. At the beginning of the book, I even empathized. After all she’s been through, it would have been surprising if she wasn’t messed up in her head.  My problem is that Nyx doesn’t change. This book consists of three novellas presented in chronological order, and Nyx stays the same unlikable abrasive self through all of them. There is no character growth, no redemption arc, not even a hint that she might mellow or start giving a shit about her companions.

I can stick with an unlikable protagonist as long as there is some hope for character growth. I might not like them, but I can stay invested if I saw an effort to better themselves and overcome their past. Unfortunately, there is no such hope for Nyx.

My other problem with Nyx is that she never faces her problems head on. She never stops to discus them with her companions and try to work out a solution like most adults would do. She chooses to lash out and run instead, then drown her frustration in alcohol until she passes out. Every single time. After the second or third time Nyx bailed and got drunk instead of just talking through the problem, I lost the little respect I had left for her… as well as my investment in her story.

So nice world building, Mrs. Hurley, but I won’t be sticking around for the next book unless Nyx starts growing.

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

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

Stars: 4 out of 5.

 

Mona’s life has been a mess ever since a car accident took her unborn baby from her. Since then, she’s been drifting town to town, shitty job to shitty job, with no idea what to do with herself. Until she goes to her father’s funeral and discovers that her mother, who killed herself when Mona was seven years old, had owned a house in a little New Mexico town called Wink. At first glance, Wink seems like a perfect little American town where everybody is happy and friendly, and time stopped somewhere in the 1970s. Only nobody ever leaves, and walking outside at night is strongly discouraged…

 

This is a difficult review to write because a huge part of what makes the book excellent is the mystery behind the town and the identity of some of its inhabitants. So I can’t dwell on the story too much as to not reveal any spoilers. Let me just say that the idea is original and the execution is very well done. For more details, get the book and read it for yourselves. You won’t regret it, I promise.

 

So since I cannot talk about the story, let me talk about Mona Bright. I love me a strong independent heroine and I’m happy to say that Mona is one.

Yes, She had an unhappy childhood with a harsh and distant father and a mentally unstable mother, so human interaction doesn’t come easy for her. She chose to be a cop because her life until then was more about weapons and hunting with her father than about dolls and socializing with other people her age. She isn’t good at that, at socializing. But she is very good at shooting things and making split second decisions under pressure. She tried to create something she never had – a happy family with a husband who loved her and a little girl she wanted to love and cherish like her mother never cherished her. Only that dream was cut short by a drunk driver running a red light.

 

By the time she learns about the property her mother owned in Wink, Mona really has nothing to lose, so it’s easy for her to pack all her possessions into the trunk of her car and drive to the middle of nowhere to a town that doesn’t show on any maps except a few local ones, and all that in the hope that this house and this town would give her a glimpse into her mother’s past. All she wants is to see that time when her mother was a happy, accomplished scientist, not a broken ruin scared of her own shadow.

 

My description might have made you think that Mona is all doom and gloom and maybe not someone you would want to follow for 300 pages, but you would be wrong. Yes, Mona is not exactly the soul of a party and she tends to lean on the pessimistic side, but she never lies to herself. And she doesn’t bend. When threatened or attacked, she gives as much as she gets.

 

And when what she finds in Wink leaves her with more questions than answers, she doesn’t hesitate to dig deeper, even if what she uncovers suggests things that should be impossible. In fact, I would argue that Mona is the only person who could have done what needed to be done in Wink because she was the only one willing not to play by the rules…

 

I loved this book. It was fast-paced and interesting and never predictable. And I’m glad that the author chose to leave it as a standalone. The story is done. What happens to Mona after Wink is entirely up to her, and just like the ending suggests, the possibilities are endless.

 

So why did I give this book 4 stars instead of 5? Two things. First, the fact that the author chose to tell this story in third person present tense threw me off at the beginning and made it harder to get into the story. I got used to it eventually, but this stylistic choice can be a turn off for some readers. Second, I found some of the POVs rather useless to the story. A character would hijack the story for a small section to never reappear again until the grand finale.

 

But overall, I would strongly suggest this book to all my friends and readers who love a good science fiction mystery or urban fantasy, because this can kinda sorta be considered both and neither. Just get the book and find out for yourselves.