Tag Archives: Kindle Edition

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Sorcerer’s Garden by D. Wallace Peach

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This is one of those quirky books that appears to be set entirely in this workaday world, before it then turns into some more fantastic.

Recently fired and residing with her sweetly overbearing mother, Madlyn needs a job—bad. In a moment of desperation, she accepts a part-time position reading at the bedside of adventurer and amateur writer Cody Lofton. A near-drowning accident left the young man in a vegetative state, and his chances of recovery wane with each passing day. Cody’s older brother, Dustin, and eccentric grandmother aren’t prepared to give up on the youngest son of Portland, Oregon’s royalty. Dustin’s a personable guy, bordering on naïve, and overwhelmed by familial corporate duties and cutthroat partners. Grandmother Lillian’s a meddler with an eye for the esoteric, dabbling in Dustin’s life and dealing out wisdom like a card shark. One innocent conversation at a time, she sucks Madlyn into the Lofton story, dubbing her the princess and bestowing on her the responsibility of both grandsons’ destinies. And all Madlyn wanted was a simple reading job.

I really like Madlyn and her struggle to fit into modern life. When she gets the job, I also like the fact that she finds the setup in the Lofton household a bit weird, if not creepy. But it was a refreshing change to have an elderly woman at the helm of the household and keeping control by an unnerving knack of knowing what is happening before anyone else. What kicks this story into the realm of fantasy is when Madlyn starts reading Cody’s unfinished fantasy novel to him.
We are then whisked away into a different world – or are we? At one point an event occurs and we have some kind of explanation for what happens as Madlyn, Dustin, Cody, Lillian and other members of the household find themselves running for their lives from bloated monsters intent on killing them. The captains of this terrifying army are none other than the greedy board members making Dustin’s life misery at the family firm where Madlyn once worked, before being unfairly fired.

So there are two main storylines running alongside each other – I liked them both and found the fantasy tale whipped along at a fair lick with plenty of danger and excitement to keep the pages turning. I also very much enjoyed the setup in the contemporary real world – Cody steadily fading away with the household and family mourning his loss and Dustin struggling to cope with the responsibility of running the company in the face of a hostile board.

However, right at the end where the two worlds came together, I was not wholly convinced that it was handled as effectively as it might be. If the writing or storytelling along the way had been less skilful, this would have been a dealbreaker, but I think this is a good read rather than the potentially great book it could have been.
7/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Less Than a Treason – Book 21 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow

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Himself is a solid fan of this series and I’ve also enjoyed dipping in and out of them – see my review of A Cold Day for Murder. He pre-ordered this offering a while ago, but I forgot all about it until this week, when I found it lurking in my TBR pile.

KATE SHUGAK is a native Aleut working as a private investigator in Alaska. She’s 5 foot 1 inch tall, carries a scar that runs from ear to ear across her throat and owns a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt. Resourceful, strong-willed, defiant, Kate is tougher than your average heroine – and she needs to be to survive the worst the Alaskan wilds can throw at her. Two thousand people go missing in Alaska every year. They vanish in the middle of mountain footraces, on fishing boats in the Bering Sea, on small planes in the Bush. Now a geologist known for going walkabout with his rock hammer has disappeared from the Suulutaq Mine in the Park. Was it deliberate? An accident? Foul play? Kate Shugak may be the only person who can find out. But for the fact that Kate, too, is now among the missing…

I loved this one. Stabenow effectively takes us back to the dramatic events at the end of the previous book, Bad Blood, and then resumes the narrative as we witness the fallout after the shocking events that left the book on a major cliffhanger. Once the immediate danger is past, Kate does what she always does when confronted with a major setback – she retreats to the wilderness to lick her wounds and heal. It doesn’t help that her constant companion, Mutt, has gone missing. I very much like Kate’s character – her laconic manner belies the impact she makes whenever she walks into a room. Stabenow is very effective at depicting a protagonist who doesn’t say a lot, yet clearly engenders a strong response – for good or bad – on those around her.

Meanwhile we also follow Jim, Kate’s significant other, who was right in the middle of the drama and pain of the event that found Kate hospitalised, fighting for her life. After she disappears, he keeps waiting for her to get back in touch and in this dual narrative, we also discover what he does while waiting for her.

And in this almost incidental manner, Kate’s next case starts with a missing man as a dead body also turns up near her cabin. Meanwhile, Jim is increasingly concerned about another member of the Shugak family who goes missing – Martin, one of Kate’s cousins. Not that anyone is overly surprised if Martin comes to a sticky end, given some of the company he keeps. Though it is no longer Jim’s job, he starts to ask around for Martin, as well as trying to quietly discover where Kate has got to.

I loved the way that Stabenow dripfeeds all the small details that build up to this murder mystery, while giving us a ringside seat as to how Jim and Kate go about rebuilding their lives after a major trauma. In addition, we also get a real insight into how to live in a part of the world that is intrinsically hostile. Stabenow’s experience of being raised in Alaska plays a major part in the excellent worldbuilding that defines this series. I was particularly struck at how global warming is playing out in this fragile corner of the globe.

If you are looking for a murder mystery series with a difference, then you can jump right into the middle of this one without too much floundering – although you’ll miss a massive backstory. But this is one of my favourite murder mysteries of the year so far and comes very highly recommended.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 23rd May, 2017

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Sungrazer – Book 2 of the Outriders series by Jay Posey
71% He was clearly struggling, relieved to be letting it out after who knew how long, uncertain how much was safe to share. “It isn’t like when you forget an appointment, or something that happened a long time ago that a friend reminds you of. It’s a hole. A blank spot. I know something should be there, but I don’t know what it is.”
“You talk to medical?”
“No, sir,” Mike answered. He looked up at Lincoln then, his eyes resolute. “And no sir, I won’t.”

BLURB: In a new Cold War between Earth and the colonies on Mars, when devastating weapons go missing, there’s only one team you can call – the Outriders. A crack force of highly specialised super-soldiers, their clone bodies are near-immortal.
When a fully-autonomous vessel with orbital strike capabilities goes missing, it’s up to the Outriders to track the untrackable. But when the trail leads them to the influential Martian People’s Collective Republic, the operation gets a lot more complicated…

This is well into this second book in the Outriders series – I enjoyed the first book in this military science fiction adventure – see my review here – and this second one is certainly full of tension and incident. Once again, an entertaining, enjoyable read that I will be reviewing in due course.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Snared Book 16 of the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep

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Last year, I plunged into the tail-end of this series, Unraveled – see my review here. So when I saw Snared was available, I immediately requested the arc from Netgalley, keen for another slice of the feisty Gin Blanco…

Another week, another few clues trickling in about the Circle, the mysterious group that supposedly runs the city’s underworld. Gathering intel on my hidden enemies is a painstaking process, but a more immediate mystery has popped up on my radar: a missing girl. My search for the girl begins on the mean streets of Ashland, but with all the killers and crooks in this city, I’m not holding out much hope that she’s still alive. A series of clues leads me down an increasingly dark, dangerous path, and I realize that the missing girl is really just the first thread in this web of evil. As an assassin, I’m used to facing down the worst of the worst, but nothing prepares me for this new, terrifying enemy—one who strikes from the shadows and is determined to make me the next victim.

The overall tone and setting for this urban fantasy offering is darker than the breezy gung-go fun to be had at the Bullet Pointe western theme park where all the action took place in Unraveled. In this adventure, we start with the death of a young girl and the disappearance of another. As Gin watches the anguish of her sister, desperate to get her back, it takes her back to her own troubled past – and this is where Estep’s skill and experience kicks in. For those of us with the poor judgement to crash midway into this series, this provides us with valuable nuggets of information about Gin’s backstory – for those who have been following the series, this will doubtless provide further layers of characterisation.

While I’m sure there are nuances and allusions I am missing, at no point was I adrift, or struggling to work out what was happening to whom. I enjoy Gin’s gritty, rather violent take on Life as she is confronted with a range of unpleasant underworld characters. Her ice and stone magic give her some significant advantages in any kind of shootout or battle – but she isn’t invulnerable and when her own cockiness gets her into a very tricky situation, help comes from a completely unexpected quarter.

I really enjoyed the various plot turns snaking through this whodunit plot, where all is not as it seems, as well as savouring the extra information we learn about her traumatic childhood. Once more, an wholly enjoyable urban fantasy adventure full of action and twisty goodness.

While I obtained the arc of Snared from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Penric’s Mission – a Novella in the World of the Five Gods

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I’ve had the delight of reading the two previous novellas in this series – Penric’s Demon and Penric and the Shaman. So when Himself said that Penric’s Mission was about to be released, it was a no-brainer that we’d scoop it up.

penricsmissionLearned Penric, a sorcerer and divine of the Bastard’s Order, travels across the sea to sunlit Cedonia on his first covert diplomatic mission, to attempt to secure the services of a disaffected Cedonian general for the Duke of Adria. However, nothing is as it seems and Penric is forced to use his own wits and resources. As well as those of the demon that lives alongside him in his body…

Firstly, avoid reading the blurb – it gives away far too much of the story and given this is a novella, there simply isn’t time for the narrative arc to recover from such a reveal. I’ve included a modified version that doesn’t contain any spoilers. Fairly rapidly, Penric’s mission is in trouble and from then on, he is forced to think on his feet.

I really like the way Bujold sets this up as one kind of story – and then suddenly changes everything around. I had intended to begin this book this morning and break off to complete it later tonight – except that once I started it, I couldn’t put it down until I’d reached the end. Once more, Penric’s wry humour, his self-effacing manner and the real danger he and his companions find themselves in hooked me in and wouldn’t let go.

A significant amount of time has elapsed between Penric and the Shaman and this offering – and we learn of what has befallen Penric during that interim as the adventure unfolds. Bujold manages to unpack the plot, throwing out small extras for those who have read the previous books, yet keeping the story sufficiently accessible so that newcomers to her world can also enjoy it. Nobody does it better – but then not many writers have had more practice at garnering new converts to a long-running series than Bujold, who is best known for her hugely successful Miles Vorkosigan series – see my review of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.

Once again, she wraps up the story leaving me a tad wrung out and completely satisfied with the outcome. And hoping that we will get another slice of Penric in due course…
10/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Heirs of Empire – Book 1 of The Scourwind Legacy by Evan Currie

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One of the Netgalley arcs I have waiting to be reviewed is An Empire Asunder, the sequel to this one. So given Heirs of Empire was already in my TBR pile as Himself is a solid Currie fan, I decided to read it first. I hasten to add this is not me turning over a new leaf, as I’ll be back to my usual disorganised – let’s-crash-midway-into this series, anyhow – mode in due course…

heirsofempireThe Scourwind family legacy brought the empire to the height of its power and prosperity and defended it against all enemies. Now one man’s machinations aim to shift the balance of power—with violent and devastating consequences.

The blurb continues at some length, but frankly that’s all you need to know before starting Heirs of Empire. The story is so fast-paced and punchy, as events stack up in quick succession, I think it would be a shame to go into it with any more information. Currie is good at writing action and letting his unusual world unfold through the storyline, although I’m still not quite sure what it is or where it is situated. However, given that this is the first in a series, I’ll run with that. It is an interesting mash-up in that this one reads like a classic epic Fantasy novel, but is clearly science fiction as all the big, scary weaponry run on lost technology, rather than magic.

There are three main protagonists – two are teenagers on the run and one is a former elite soldier turned privateer. I really like Mira Desol, who isn’t on anyone’s side except her own and a sense of obligation to those who have thrown in their lot with her. To say she has a reckless streak is putting it mildly. Currie is good at depicting nuanced characters with edges that make them difficult – both teenagers have a reputation for being a pain. But this book isn’t all about their moody angst – they’re too busy trying to simply stay alive to even begin to come to terms with what has overtaken them.

The other major character is General Corian, who is another elite soldier on a mission to rid the empire of those wrongdoers he believes are allowing too much corruption to fester. If I have any grizzles with this very enjoyable, engrossing adventure it is that I would have liked to have seen him more nuanced. He is continually short-fused and furious, but clearly something drove him to take the drastic steps he does and I would like to have seen at least one scene showing his reasoning, given we are in his viewpoint at intervals throughout the story.

However, this isn’t a dealbreaker – Currie has provided an action-packed tale and the climactic ending had me unable to put the book down until it was completed – for starters, I wasn’t sure exactly who was going to survive. I can now see why Himself has got hold of so many books by this author and I look forward to plunging back into this world very soon.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Unraveled – Book 15 of the Elemental Assassins series by Jennifer Estep

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I enjoyed reading Bright Blaze of Magic earlier this year – see my review here – so pounced on this offering when I spotted it. The first thing to say is don’t worry about the fact this is the fifteenth book in the series – I requested it from NetGalley blissfully ignorant that there was a fourteen-book backstory, and frankly, it didn’t matter. I’m sure there were nuances and allusions I missed, having not been part of the world before, but at no point was I floundering or feeling I was playing catch-up. So if this one takes your fancy, then go for it whether you’ve read any of the others or not.

unraveledWhat could go wrong when you’re trying to unravel a decades-old conspiracy?

As the current queen of the Ashland underworld, you would think that I, Gin Blanco, would know all about some secret society controlling things from behind the scenes. I might be the Spider, the city’s most fearsome assassin, but all my Ice and Stone elemental magic hasn’t done me a lick of good in learning more about “the Circle”. Despite my continued investigations, the trail’s gone as cold as the coming winter. So when Finnegan Lane, my foster brother, gets word of a surprising inheritance, we figure why not skip town for someplace less dangerous for a few days? That place: Bullet Pointe, a fancy hotel resort complex plus Old West theme park that Finn now owns lock, stock, and barrel. At first, all the struttin’ cowboys and sassy saloon girls are just hokey fun. But add in some shady coincidences and Circle assassins lurking all around, and vacationing becomes wilder—and deadlier—than any of us expected. Good thing this assassin brought plenty of knives to the gunfight …

The breezy first person pov in the blurb is a fair reflection of the tone throughout. Gin has a rather traumatic past that comes through clearly without holding up the narrative and there were times when I slightly winced at the gung-ho manner in which she dispatched all the foot-soldiers ranged against her. But given the level of mayhem and action, there is a lot less graphic detail than I was expecting. In fact, if it wasn’t for the single rather detailed sex scene in it, I would have thought this far more suited to the YA market than other recent offerings specifically aimed at that readership.

I loved the Bullet Pointe – that tongue-in-cheek play on words for this theme park, sets the tone, complete with dressed up characters, setting and set piece shoot-out gave this assassin-action story a glossy light-hearted feel. Estep clearly enjoyed writing this one – there is a bounce and freshness to the scenario that often isn’t apparent in a long-running series. I sort of guessed where the twists were coming, but that didn’t really matter. I cared about Gin Blanco and hoped she’d prevail against the satisfyingly nasty baddies and would happily read more of the Elemental Assassins series. It was a welcome slice of light relief after having read some hefty, awesome books recently.

I received the arc of Unraveled from the publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee

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I read the beginning of the blurb on NetGalley and decided this one was too intriguing to miss out on…

the1000thfloorWelcome to Manhattan, 2118.
A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose. Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched. Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart. Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one? Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies. And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

We’ve all seen the plot device on CSI – the episode starts with one of main characters in a burning building/being shot/another horrible situation, and then the narrative jumps back in time to lead up to that particular point… And this is exactly what McGee has done with her debut novel. The book opens with a beautiful young girl plummeting to her death from the top of the tallest building in New York – and then the narration jumps back two months to introduce us to a cast of characters whose lives intertwine in a variety of ways. And each time we revisit one of the girls, we wonder if this is going to be the victim.

It’s deftly done. There are five protagonists, each with their own chapter in third person viewpoint, advancing the plot and increasing the complexity. It could have ended up a mess, but McGee manages to keep the tension continually building with their loves, disasters and misjudgements adding to the potent mix, so that even by the night of the fateful party – even when a number of them are up on the roof, I still didn’t know until the denouement, exactly which of the girls was going to fall to her death.

If you are someone who makes a habit of turning to the end of a book to discover what will happen, then I’m not sure this one is for you. I had decided on at least three of the beautiful young woman and was wrong on every count. Given that I am not the target audience for this book, I feel McGee handles their crises very effectively. It would have been all too easy to turn this into an angst-ridden, over-emotional meltdown – and that doesn’t happen. I found myself sympathising with each one as we watched them plunge every deeper into a variety of problems – many not of their own making.

As a speculative fiction fan, I really enjoyed the futuristic spin put on this story. Set in the near future, this is more about the characters than the world, but the backdrop was convincingly done and I liked the direct metaphor – the wealthier and more successful your parents, the further up the tower you lived. All in all, this is a gripping and accomplished read – and while we certainly learn the identity of the hapless victim by the end, there are a number of plotpoints dangling, to make the next book one I’d like to get hold of.

I received an arc of The Thousandth Floor from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Edition Machinations – Book 1 of Machinations series by Hayley Stone

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The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race. A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a machinationsrescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself. Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

I loved the opening and thought the passage where she died was very strong. Stone has a memorable, effective writing style and especially in the earlier scenes, I felt her characterisation of Rhona was effectively layered – the dilemma of a clone with an impaired memory was movingly depicted. There was a strong supporting cast – Samuel and Camus both bounced off the page, although I did slightly wince at the love triangle aspect. Not only has it been done to death, it really jarred in the context of the story arc, I felt.

Given this was an apocalyptic scenario, the world had to be convincing and Stone’s description of a shattered landscape where people are holed up, eking out a minimal existence worked well. What was less successful was the depiction of the machines. While it is mentioned there are a variety of them, there only seemed to be one sort and they appeared to be very easy to disable. I also found it difficult to visualise what they looked like, apart from the red eyes and the whirring noise they made. While I didn’t expect huge swathes of information about the rise of the machines and the original premise made entire sense, there wasn’t a particularly strong sense of how they went about attacking or what the higher echelons consisted of, which I found slightly frustrating.

The other problem I had with the story in the latter stages was that Rhona became the poster girl for the human uprising on the strength of one inspirational speech. She didn’t quite tip into being a Mary Sue – the protagonist who can do it all perfectly – but it came uncomfortably close, which was a shame, given the nuanced, clever characterisation at the beginning of the book when she was coming to terms with being a clone.

However, both these issues were more irritations than dealbreaking flaws, and they don’t take away from the fact that this is an interesting beginning to the series, with a strong protagonist. I look forward to seeing what Stone does with this world in future books.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Demon Road – Book 1 of the Demon Road series by Derek Landy

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I read Desolation, the second book in this series earlier this year – see my review here. It seemed to make sense to read the first book when I saw it also available on NetGalley, so I finally got around to it.

demonroadDemon Road kicks off with a shocking opener and never lets up the pace in an epic road-trip across the supernatural landscape of America. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers: they’re all here. And the demons? Well, that’s where Amber comes in… Sixteen years old, smart and spirited, she’s just a normal American teenager until the lies are torn away and the demons reveal themselves. Forced to go on the run, she hurtles from one threat to another, revealing a tapestry of terror woven into the very fabric of her life. Her only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be.

The blurb isn’t kidding. This book starts with a bang and just goes on delivering one shock after another as Amber is hurtled from life as a solitary teen into running for her life under terrible circumstances. She is an appealing protagonist – initially unsure with low self- esteem – until a dramatic change also affects her personality. Fortunately, she isn’t having to face this road trip alone. Milo ends up looking out for her, with his vintage Charger car. Inevitably, they run into yet more trouble and pick up another passenger, Glen.

I really enjoyed Glen joining the team – although I was a little uneasy at the racial stereotype that the Irishman who came to America looking for adventure isn’t the sharpest tool in the box… However, his humorous intervention was very welcome in amongst the death and mayhem that follows their desperate race against Time.

I’m aware this book is aimed at YA, but I would not be happy if the youngsters in my life got hold of it before they were sixteen plus. The violence is visceral and gory. While I appreciated the sheer wicked ghastliness of the antagonists pursuing the teenager, I can see why young, inexperienced readers may find some of the scenes upsetting. And Landy doesn’t flinch from killing off some of his main characters, either…

All in all, I found it an enjoyable, engrossing read, full of thrills and excitement – but it isn’t for the faint-hearted, or highly imaginative, sensitive young teens. I received a copy of Demon Road from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
8/10