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Tag: "adventure"

Review: In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

[ 5 ] April 2, 2015

in the afterlight book coverReviewed by Carrie Ardoin

In the Afterlight is the closing novel of the spectacular young adult series, The Darkest Minds. The story picks up a month or so after the headquarters of our main character, Ruby, have been destroyed in a citywide bombing. Ruby and her rebel comrades have suffered huge losses, and even though they feel especially low, they are not going down without a fight.

Although Ruby has lost one of the people she was closest to, she has also let one back into her life. Liam now remembers nearly everything that went on between the two of them, and he’s more than ready to forgive Ruby and move forward in their relationship. But in a world where Ruby cannot guarantee that she will be alive from one day to the next, how can she open herself up to love and possibly break Liam’s heart?

I found In the Afterlight to be a satisfying, well rounded close to The Darkest Minds series. There is plenty to keep the reader’s mind busy; the book jumps from bloody action scenes, to introspection, to romance pretty quickly. This is good because it means the focus is not too much on one aspect or the other.

Ruby has finally somewhat come to accept her mind’s abilities, and she now can control them enough to the point where it doesn’t hurt her to use them when necessary. In fact, she has come to see them as more like powers than a curse. She is stronger than ever now, and her focus is on getting the rest of the kids like her out of their hellish rehabilitation camps.

The book does have a few stumbling points. Ruby is so stubborn sometimes, that she unnecessarily hurts those who want nothing more than to help her. There are also a couple of minor plot points that are kind of just explained away without any true resolution. Finally, there are introductions of new characters that happen way too quickly, and that I would have liked to have explored further.

But in the end, this series was about one girl, the few people she loved, and their fight to be free. I enjoyed every page of Ruby’s journey, and though I am happy with the way things ended, I am also sad that their story is over. That’s the sign of a great author, so job well done, Ms. Bracken.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Disney-Hyperion. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher

[ 3 ] March 30, 2015

dark intelligence book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Dark Intelligence is the first book in a new series called Transformation in the Polity Universe. The book begins by introducing Thorvald Spear in a virtual resurrection room. He has just been resurrected from his recently recovered memory implant. Apparently, he was found sitting in a jewelry store window set in a nice brooch.

After going through his acclimation process he has a chance to absorb his last memories and it leaves him with a need to revenge himself and his friends. It appears his last days with his friends were on a planet fighting against the Prador. One of their own ships carpet bombed the stronghold and wiped out the whole unit. This and some other not so pleasant memories coming back to him leave him with a burning hatred for one Penny Royal, a rogue AI. He adjusts to being resurrected 100 years after his death pretty fast–spurred on by his desire to return the favor to Penny Royal.

Thorvald needs information to track this rather enigmatic AI. Being out of commission for a 100 years leaves one with some rather outdated info. While digging for information on Penny Royal, Thorvald finds many stories about the AI, showing that she was not idle while he was indisposed. One of her victims/supplicants/treasure seekers was Isobel Satomi, a rather important up and coming crime boss. She went to Penny Royal requesting help and she got what she asked for, though not exactly what she wanted.

Penny Royal has a reputation of being able to supply whatever one wants, for a price. Almost the genie in the bottle. However, her deals often have a very Mephistophelian bent. If you aren’t careful, you get exactly what you wish for. Thorvald learns that Isobel was one who got more than she bargained for and he approaches her with promises of reversing the problems, as payment for services she can render.

Dark Intelligence is a very interesting book and Penny Royal is a “chess player” like none other. She always seems to be three steps ahead of everyone else. I enjoyed listening to this book and found myself eager to get the next one in the series to see where things will lead to. It did have a good story arch and one could stop with this book, but why? While this is decent sci-fi, I think it is a great twisted mystery and worthy of a read–or a listen.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Audible.com. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

[ 2 ] March 30, 2015

never fade book coverReviewed by Carrie Ardoin

Never Fade is the second book in the Darkest Minds series, and the tone of the novel is dramatically different than that of its predecessor. Whereas in the first book the reader gets to see the main character, Ruby, as a somewhat fragile, confused ex-prisoner, we now get to see her as a soldier working towards the cause of saving other young people like herself.

The book picks up six months after the events of The Darkest Minds. Ruby has joined and very reluctantly risen up the ranks to become a respected leader in the Children’s League. She is often called upon to use her psi abilities to read the minds of those who know important information about what the League is trying to accomplish. All this has come at quite a price to Ruby: the friends she met and became close to when she first left her camp, Chubs, Zu, and Liam, no longer have any connection to her.

Ruby’s world is fast paced and though a lot of thrilling things happen to her, I didn’t find myself as engaged in her story as I did in the first installment of this series. I believe this is mostly because several new characters are introduced rather quickly in the first half of the story, and Ruby is not one to open herself up to new people (or anybody really). Therefore, you don’t see her making connections or feeling much. After only six months of her new work, she is jaded.

The second half of the story really ramps up, as the friends we got to know and love from Ruby’s past come back into her life. These are the people Ruby cares about, and the tone of the book and Ruby’s voice changes completely after they are reintroduced.

Though I’d classify this story as a dystopian political thriller, there are small doses of romance scattered in as well. The small amount that the book does have is very engaging and will make your heart beat faster. The author is talented at writing these small love scenes, and I hope to see more of them in the next novel of the series.

The end of the book moved very quickly, and didn’t really wrap up what at times were quite confusing political storylines for me. I can tell the author is laying the groundwork to have this all finished in the final novel, but it made for puzzling reading sometimes.

I am definitely ready to see how Ruby’s tale will end, because I love her as a main character and I have enjoyed watching her develop. I know not every tale can have a happy ending, but I am hoping for a satisfying one.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Disney-Hyperion. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Empty Throne by Bernard Cornwell

[ 5 ] March 27, 2015

empty throne book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

Is there a name for a narrator, seemingly reliable to the reader, yet not so predictable to his fellow characters? I have found his name to be Lord Uhtred, a Saxon nobleman, warrior, and a sometime conniver, but a plotter to the common good of Mercia. To say I liked Lord Uhtred, the senior, is an understatement. He is strong, reliable to the reader and those in his personal command, and he exhibits a dry witty dark humor. Such is the lead narrator of Bernard Cornwell’s latest novel in the Saxon Tales series, The Empty Throne.

In 911, King Æthelred of Mercia is declining in health. The king has no heir. A Witan (council) is called amongst the Saxon nobles to meet in Gleawecestre on Saint Cuthbert’s feast day to determine the fate of Mercia. Amongst those summoned to the Witan is Lord Uhtred, a known supporter of Æthelflaed, Lady of Mercia, the king’s estranged wife. Uhtred believes there is no nobleman who can lead and protect Mercia as Æthelflaed can. Uhtred is thought also to be declining in health as he suffered serious injuries in a recent battle. He is not seen as a threat when called south as a singular voice in support of Æthelflaed’s right to the throne.

The fate of Mercia does not only hang on a successor to the throne. Viking raiders are becoming bolder. They encroach from the north and seek to lay their claim on Mercian lands. Many noblemen and holy brethren are too wrapped up with finding a new king to give the northern threat much notice. Only Uhtred and Æthelflaed stand in the way of the Viking invasion.

The Empty Throne is the first book in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales series that I have read. It certainly will not be my last. I chose to read The Empty Throne because the history of Æthelflaed, Lady of Mercia, has intrigued me. That Cornwell wrote a novel around the reality and myth of Æthelflaed is not surprising; there is such rich ground for epic story making within her history. Cornwell’s novel is fiction based on some facts, yet it is not dry. Cornwell brings England a thousand years ago to life in all of its mucky, blood curdling, fantastic details. Moreover, Uhtred is a warrior worth cheering for especially when circumstances seem to sway out of his favor. The Empty Throne was an entertaining and engaging read.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Vostok by Steve Alten

[ 3 ] March 26, 2015

vostok book coverPlease join Steve Alten, author of Vostok, as he tours the blogosphere with iRead Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy of the book below – open internationally

Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

Vostok is the second book featuring Zachary Wallace, and large parts of it takes place in Antarctica, below the frozen ice cap, in a liquid lake, Vostok.  Steve Alten appears to like the idea of ancient Miocene predators and other animals hiding in the dark places of the ocean. This isn’t the only series he has dealing with supposedly long extinct species and there is a little cross-over with the others.

I will say that Alten does a pretty poor job when it comes to real science and double checking facts used in the story. I really started taking notice when he converted -25C to -87F in a conversation and no one seemed to notice the huge error (-25C is -13F…).  The next big error was saying that high energy electromagnetic waves (ultraviolet – x-ray, etc.) have longer wavelengths than red and infrared. This is completely backwards and would only take a quick Google search to validate. Then there is a marine biologist grad student discussing evolution with our Dr. Zachary (another marine biologist) and claiming that it is much more likely that whales evolved from large fish like sharks instead of ‘bears like Darwin postulated’ based solely on the similarity of size. There are so many things wrong with this statement that I almost stopped reading the book.

Dr. Zachary Wallace is considered to be the ideal candidate to travel all the way to the other end of the earth to Antarctica, where he will be sent under two miles of ice to explore a lake that has been covered for eons. It is a trip of a lifetime. It is also incredibly dangerous and has a smaller chance of success than everyone realizes.

The first issue is the variety of life they find left over from the Miocene, much of it dangerous to their small three person submarine. When they are coming through the ice they miss their mark and land a long way from anywhere useful to get themselves back. After they arrive at an ‘island’ – one of their objectives on the mission – things start getting strange. Wallace has an encounter that changes his life forever.

This book had more holes in it than a Dan Brown plot, however, despite all the issues I had with the the biology and physics, Alten can still tell a good attention grabbing yarn. Even with its faults, I give this book 3.5 stars. Vostok will definitely be more enjoyable for someone who doesn’t care about the science. A little fact checking can go a long way!

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided by Rebel Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

[ 4 ] March 24, 2015

golden son book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Golden Son takes place a few years after Red Rising, and Darrow has matured some more. He is at the end of his training, winning his last battle and then his life starts to unravel. The matriarch of the Bellona family holds a grudge like none other and she intends to have her revenge–she literally wants his heart on a platter.

Darrow has his first major set back and he doesn’t really know how to recover from it. On top of that his sponsor, Augustus, isn’t very forgiving of those who let him down. One of Darrow’s faults is his lack of politicking skills. This is a serious shortcoming when dealing with a race brought up on extreme Machiavellian tendencies. And Darrow often registers a back stabbing threat after the knife has plunged home.

What saves our hero more often than not is his friends. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know whether to embrace them or set them up to die with the rest of the gold leadership. It’s his internal vacillation that keeps his friends at arms length. They never really know what he’s thinking or feeling and this alienates them, often at very inopportune times. It is a lesson Darrow needs to learn over and over. Often a little too late. Everytime he seems to be about to complete an important goal, his ego seems to get in the way and ruin everything.

I really enjoyed reading this book and I gave it 4.5 stars. I gave Red Rising 5 stars, partly because it was fresh and exciting, but also because it was a complete book. The series could have ended there and it still would have been good. Golden Son ends on a cliffhanger and the last book will be needed to achieve some resolution. Pierce Brown also seems to be taking a few notes from George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb. No one is safe and they must all go through life crushing experiences.

This book, while still full of action, also had a lot of politicking and mind games, most of which our hero wasn’t really equipped to handle. Overall, good book and great series. Can’t wait for the last one!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Del Rey. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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