Category Archives: Reviews

The Deep by Nick Cutter.

The Deep

Stars: 3 out of 5.

 

I am hard-pressed to grade this book, because I loved it… until I didn’t. And that “didn’t” came in the last 1/3 of the book, including the ending.

 

The premise of The Deep is very promising. There is an incurable disease called the GETS that slowly kills people. First you start forgetting little things like where you put your keys or the name of your boyfriend in high school, then you forget more essential things like how to feed yourself, until you forget how to breath or your heart forgets to beat. It’s always lethal and nobody knows what causes it. But there might be hope for humanity. A substance has been discovered deep in the Mariana Trench that might be able to cure the GETS. A group of scientists had been lowered down to study it in a high tech habitat called the Trieste. Only the base station above has lost contact with Trieste several days ago, and then a horribly broken body of one of the scientists surfaced in the bathyscaphe that had been attached to the habitat. Two people are sent down to investigate what happened. They will face more than just crazy scientists and the crushing pressure of the depths.

 

As I said, I started really liking what I was reading. Loved the main characters and the world Nick Cutter built. Can’t say anything bad about the language either. I read the first 2/3 of the book in two days. It took me a whole week to finally bring myself to finish it. But I need to mention that I don’t think it’s because the last third of the book is bad. I think it’s just that I really didn’t agree with the choices the author made and what he made his characters do.

 

Without going into details, because that would be a huge spoiler, but I don’t think anyone would make the choice the protagonist makes in the end, no matter how crazy they become. There is no mistaking that evil thing for his son. Sorry that’s just not plausible.

 

I have two other gripes with this book.

 

The first one is also deeply personal and might not put off other readers. But for me, there were way too many flashbacks in this book. I understand that they are necessary and an important part of the story, and that the reader wouldn’t understand what’s going on without at least some of them. But they are just too long! And they break the narrative, killing the suspense. I mean one chapter we are on board of the positively creepy Trieste and the tension can be cut with a knife… and then we have a whole chapter about the day the protagonist’s son disappeared. Once we come back to the Trieste, the tension is gone, flushed down the drain.

 

My second gripe is how the characters behave. I mean they are both smart people, they both come to the realization that weird s%&t is happening on board of that station, and that they are more susceptible to it when they are alone. So why oh why do they think that separating and wandering off on their own is a good idea? And why did the author use that tired old trope from every bad slasher / horror movie ever? Especially if bad stuff repeatedly happens when they do it, surely after the third time they would have worked out that staying together might be wiser?

 

*Deep breath*

 

So to summarize, it’s a well-written book with an interesting story. Some of the things in it didn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t work for other readers. So I would say, if you like horror, you should give The Deep a try.

PS. This review is for an advanced copy I got from NetGalley.

It Started with a Whisper by A. W. Hartoin.

It started with a whisper

Stars: 5 out of 5.

Ernest “Puppy” McClarity has only one wish: that Miss Pritchett, his dreaded math teacher, leaves him alone on the last day of school, so he makes a wish to his great-granddad Ernest to take care of her for him. Only wishes are a powerful thing when you are a McClarity, and old Ernest always watches over his own, even if he is long dead.

I absolutely loved It Started with a Whisper. It has magic and paranormal elements in it, but they are presented in such a manner that a lot can be seen as coincidences or weird accidents. This book is not about the all-powerful witches that smite their enemies with deadly spells. It’s about a family that loves each other and their land, and would do anything to protect each other as well.

I loved all the characters in this book. The McClarity clan is big, colorful and full of crazy people. They biker, they fight with each other, but they also have fun and love each other unconditionally. And they are all fully fleshed and tridimensional characters. I felt like I was right there at Camp with them, just another member of the Pack.

And Great-grandpa’s Ernest old homestead, or the Camp as everyone calls it, is described with such love and attention to detail, that I could picture it perfectly in my head as well. That’s actually one of the reasons I loved this book so much – it reminded me of the summers I spent at my grandparents summerhouse when I was a child. It was in a remote village in Russia where everybody knew each other and nobody ever locked their doors. All the kids would play together from dawn till dusk, and nobody worried where we were. That long-forgotten feeling of freedom, of summer heat and lazy afternoons swimming in the pond or exploring the woods behind the village, I managed to recapture it again while I read this book. And for that, Mrs. Hartoin, I thank you.

This story is less about magic, and more about Puppy slowly leaving his childhood behind and realizing that actions have consequences, and that sometimes things are not what they seem, and neither are people. Nothing is black or white, and even the hated teacher who had been so awful to him all year long might do so because she is profoundly unhappy and just lashing out.

It’s a coming of age story and it’s executed perfectly. Puppy is a typical 14 year old boy who has just barely left childhood and suddenly discovered that girls might as well be aliens from Tau Centori, because they are just as puzzling. Like any other boys his age, he is awkward around them, unsure of himself and slightly embarrassed about his mother always dropping him at school at least 30 mins late. All he wants at the beginning of the book is spend a fun summer at Camp with his family and friends, and hope that Beatrice, the llama that seems to hate him for some reason, doesn’t spit on him too often.

But when real disaster strikes and some of his actions have grave consequences, he steps up and does what is right. By then end of the story, Puppy has turned into a good man, a man Grandpa Ernest would be proud of.

I thoroughly enjoyed It Started With a Whisper and my time spent at Camp with the McClarities. On this cold and dreary season it was a much needed breath of summer heat. I would definitely pick up the next book when it comes out in 2015, because I wouldn’t mind coming back for a visit… as long as I’m invited. Because bad things happen to people who step on Ernest’s land uninvited.

PS. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review through LibraryThing.

The Best books I read in 2014.

I have read 48 books last year, according to Goodreads. I’m pretty sure I read more than that, but I didn’t write a review for all of them (and some I started but never finished for various reasons). But that’s still a lot of books! A lot of it is due to the fact that I became member of NetGalley and got access to the advanced copies of so many shiny new books, but mostly I just love reading.

So before I start on my 2015 goal to read and review 50 books, I wanted to mention the best books I had the pleasure to read in 2014. Those are books that touched me, made me turn the pages into the wee hours of the morning thinking, “just one more page, and I’m going to bed,” and whose stories stayed with me long after I reached the end and closed the book.

So here we go. I tried to break it by categories, but I usually suck at it, so meh. Some categories will have several books, some just one, but all of them are a must read.

SCIENCE FICTION.

Abyss

The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F Hamilton. I loved this book. It reminded me of the Culture series by Iaian M Banks, which I absolutely loved. I will definitely purchase the next book in the series because I want to find out what happened to the characters. Here is my review.

DARK FANTASY.

I have three whole books in this category for 2014.

Of Bone and Thunder

Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans. Have you ever wondered what a Vietnam war like situation would be like in a fantasy world? Wonder no more, because that’s the book Chris Evans wrote. But it’s so much more than Vietnam war with swords and dragons. It’s the story of several fleshed out characters that we come to know and love during the book, and some of whom we still morn in the end. My review is here.

City of Stairs

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. There was once a world where Gods walked the streets of mighty cities and interceded on behalf of their people… and a man who invented a weapon that could kill them. Now Bulikov, the city of the Gods, lays in ruins, and those who were once rulers of the world have become second class citizens. But are the gods really as dead as they seem? I loved this startling new world, and I’m hoping for a sequel. And here is my review.

Three Parts Dead
Three Parts Dead

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. In a world where Gods interact with their worshipers and some people possess godlike powers, it’s inevitable that the two would eventually clash in a bloody conflict. Several decades after the massacre that killed several gods and their creations, a young Craft woman is called to the city to investigate the death of it’s main god… I loved this book! And I’m absolutely in love with this world. My raving review is here.

URBAN FANTASY

Rivers of London

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Step aside, Harry Potter, here comes Peter Grant. This is what is what a real modern day wizard would be like – full of inquisitiveness and the willingness to find out how magic actually works, to try and systematize it and put a scientific base behind the spell casting. Add to it wonderful characters and vivid descriptions of London and you have me hooked. And this series only gets better with each book. Here is my review.

The Rook

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. This book defies classification. Yeah, it’s kinda urban fantasy, or maybe a superhero story, but the hero is more broken then super-powerful in this case. But I loved Myfawny and the wonderful (and scary) world she lives in. Where is the next book, Mr. O’Malley? And the review is here.

POST-APOCALYPTIC.

Darwin's elevator

Darwin’s Elevator by Jason M Hough.  Twenty three years ago, the Builders, a race of aliens that nobody has ever seen, shot a giant elevator cable from their spaceship into the soil of Darwin, Australia. Fourteen years later, a plague called SUBS wiped transformed every human being on the planet into an animal driven by only one primal emotion, which was rage in most cases. Only a small zone around the Darwin’s Elevator is SUBs free and everything that’s left of humanity is huddled around it. But what if the Builders are not done with Earth? What if they are coming back? Here is my review.

PARANORMAL ROMANCE.

Yep, I even read that from time to time.

Magic Bites

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. I’m not big on romance, but this story had me hooked and wanting for more. Maybe because of the rich and complex world, maybe because Kate is not your typical paranormal romance heroine, or maybe because the romance itself seems to progress so naturally that I BELIEVED in it. But yes, I’m going to read the rest of this series and I’m not even ashamed of it. As usual, the review is here.

Pfew, there! I consider myself very lucky to have read so many good books last year. And there were more books that I liked, but not enough to put them on the “best of” list. Granted, there had also been some books I got so frustrated with I had wanted to throw my e-reader across the room, which would end up being expensive if I did that every time I get upset with a book.

I am hoping to read even more wonderful books in 2015.

Hotter than Helltown by SM Reine

Hotter than Helltown

Stars: 3 out of 5

Hotter than Helltown is one of those books I find tough to review. On one hand, I liked it while I read it – there was an interesting plot and it kept moving along fast enough to make you want to turn the pages; the characters didn’t get on my nerves, and I didn’t mind following them. On the other hand, once I reached the end, closed the book and tried to summarize what I’d just read, I was left with a shrug and a “meh, it’s alright, but nothing stellar” assessment.

 

Yes, the story moves along at a fast pace, and it’s fun to follow Cesar along while he tries to investigate the gruesome murders and study for a big magical test that might cost him his life if he fails. 

 

The problem is, the story moves along too fast. It’s a relatively short book and a lot of events seemed crammed into the pages. This leaves no space for character development or world exploration. It’s a non-stop sprint from page 1 to THE END. I mean, sure, it keeps you entertained while you read it, but once you’re finished, it doesn’t leave much of an aftertaste.

 

I liked Cesar’s POV, but he is the only character in this book with any kind of background or development. Everybody else around him are just sidekicks with no dept. Oh, stuff is implied or mentioned in passing about them, but never truly explored. I would have loved to know a bit more about his partner or his boss, or even have a glimpse into Bella’s story. But all this was left by the wayside as the book raced through the plot. Which made it hard to empathize and care about the characters, at least for me.

 

The world building element was also rather none-existent. Now, this might be due to the fact that this is book 3 in the series and most of the world building had been done in the previous installments. But it felt at times like I was running with the protagonist through a movie set – normal looking houses on the outside with just cardboard and wooden poles in the back to prop them upright. I think each book in a series needs to add something to the world, but Hotter than Helltown didn’t seem to do any of that… 

 

So to summarize, it was a fun and quick read, but it was forgotten just as quickly once it was done. If you just want an easy book to spend your Saturday afternoon with, by all means pick it up.

 

PS. This review is for the advanced reader copy I received via NetGalley.

Submission guidelines – read carefully if you want me to review your book.

guidelines

I do not charge for reviewing a book. I love reading and I love sharing my opinion about the books I read. This also means that I DO NOT PURCHACE BOOKS! If you want me to review your book, send me a free copy.

I give honest and thorough reviews. I rank my reviews on a 5 stars scale. If I loved the book, I won’t hesitate to give it a 5 star and explain exactly what I found so fabulous about it. But it also means that I won’t pull any punches if I don’t like your book, but I promise to give a thorough explanation of what didn’t work for me.

I also post my review on Amazon and Goodreads. If you want me to post my review on another site, please indicate that in your email.

My preferred book format is EPUB, but I can accept books in MOBI, PDF and DOC formats as well.

I mostly read fiction. I might be persuaded to review a non-fiction book, but it would be approached on case by case basis. I DO NOT read or review erotic fiction. I mostly read adult fiction. I have been known to pick up a YA book or two, but they are definitely not my main focus.

 Genres I read in:

  • Science fiction: both hard and soft, space operas welcome.
  • Fantasy: any genre, from high fantasy to urban or dark fantasy.
  • Horror: psychological horror only. I will not read the “splatter gore” genre.
  • Paranormal: I prefer paranormal mysteries.
  • Post-apocalyptic and dystopian: yes please, love those two genres.
  • Romance: not a big fan, but I can pick up a romance book IF it’s written in the above mentioned genres; IF the characters are interesting and the romance evolves organically (no love at first sight, please); and IF the romance is secondary to the plot itself.

If you want me to review your book, please send your review request to elorenalory@gmail.com and include a synopsis of your book, a link to your amazon or goodreads page, and some information about yourself. Please also indicate which format you would be able to send your book in.

I reply to all review requests, even if I decide not to pick up your book. If I decide to review it, I will usually send you an email with an estimated timeline as to when I can get to it. It all depends on my ever-growing pile of books awaiting reviews.

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) by Ilona Andrews.

Magic Bites

Stars: 5 out of 5.

Did I mention that I love the “alsobought” section on the Amazon site? I discovered a lot of books I fell absolutely in love with through that. Magic Bites was one of them. I had just posted a review on one of October Daye’s books by Seanan McGuire, and I was browsing through that section for something similar to read when I saw Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews.

Well, I can say that I’m glad I bought it because I loved this book. It has several of the components that I look for in a paranormal romance series, and all of them are done just right. So you can say that Magic Bites was a feast for sore eyes.

First of all, the worldbuilding. I loved this world where magic and technology come in alternating waves. I also like that the author set her story a long time after those waves first started happening, so it’s not a post-apocalyptic  story at all. Society has adapted to the new world and takes the changes in stride: they have both electricity and magic lights which switch on automatically depending on the wave; every garage or stable in Atlanta has both cars and horses.

The different magical beings and factions are also well-integrated into the society. I mean, when a magical wave can strike at any time and last for days, nobody would be very surprised to see witches, necromancers or shifters in the streets anymore.

So even in the first book of a series, we are introduced into a complex world with several different layers, a past and even a distinctive mythology. And the introduction is done progressively, without the dreaded infodumps that usually make me skip ahead or just close the book and never pick it up again.

So just for that, I would have already been happy with Magic Bites. But the good surprises didn’t end there. Kate Daniels is a strong female protagonist how they all should be – strong, smart, not afraid to make tough decisions and used to relying only on herself. Yes, she can come across and stand-offish and over-confident sometimes, but I think it has more to do with her upbringing and backstory, which is hinted upon, but not entirely explained. Which is also good, because it makes me want to pick up the next book in the series to learn a bit more about her.

Kate is a loner. She had been brought up to think that she cannot trust anyone but herself and that getting attached to other people is a weakness. So she tries to act accordingly. But she was also brought up with an inane sense of justice, so she can’t help but intervene when she sees something as being wrong. Which has a tendency to land her in a world of trouble.

Since it’s a paranormal romance, I can’t write a review without mentioning the romantic interest as well. Those of you who had been following my blog for some time know that the romance has to be very well written and feel “natural” for me to like the book. So that’s another point in this book’s favor – the romantic component is there, there are hints, but I have a feeling that it will develop gradually through the course of several books.

I also liked the fact that the romance does not take the driver sit in the story. Both Kate and Curran feel attracted to each other, yes, but that attraction is in the background. I have read way too many novels where the romantic interest seems to exist only when the protagonist is around and has no life / goals / desires outside of that. I’m glad that Curran isn’t like that. You can feel that he has his own life, his responsibilities and passions that have nothing to do with Kate or the case they end up investigating together. In other words, he is a well-rounded character on his own.

So yes, I loved this book and I love this series. And I will strongly recommend it to anyone who is looking for an engaging story, wonderfully fleshed-out world and complex characters.

P.S. And I think that Kate’s first encounter with Curran is hilarious. I mean, “Here, kitty, kitty?”

Cold Hillside by Nancy Baker

Cold Hillside

Stars: 5 out of 5.

With Cold Hillside Nancy Baker managed to step away from the fae stereotype plaguing most of recent fantasy and paranormal books who depict a romanticized version of the fair folk: beautiful, mysterious, and a good romantic interest for the protagonist. Nancy Baker depicts a whole other version of the fae, which is much closer to the original legends and could be summarized by one sentence:

 With them, there are no happy endings.

 Yes, they are beautiful, but so is a coral snake or a poisonous flower, and both will kill you without pity or remorse. They are mysterious and alien and immortal, yes. They also consider us mortals as toys. Fascinating sometimes, but easily broken and discarded. I like this depiction of the fae better, maybe because that’s how they were portrayed in the fairy tales I grew up with.

 But the fae are not the only reason I gave this book five stars. A book would be nothing without engaging characters and an interesting story, and Cold Hillside has both in heaps. Because while the fae are present in the book and have an important influence on the events, this story is about the mortal people.

 I loved the depiction of Lushan, this big city clinging to the cold side of a mountain and whose inhabitants still manage to thrive in these unforgiving conditions. You can see that a lot of work had gone into creating this cold and unforgiving world and the culture of the people who live in it. But it’s masterfully inserted into the story itself, so that it never feels like an info dump. Lushan reminded me a little of Tibet, while Deshiniva where Teresine is from, would be more like India.

 Speaking of Teresine and the other protagonist in this book, her great-grandniece Lilith, it’s rare that we get truly strong women as protagonists, so this book was an absolute treat! Way too often, I have come across “strong” heroines that constantly needed rescued by their male love interests. Or who were totally rude and lacking basic social skills.

 Both Teresine and Lilith are strong and self-sufficient women the way I like them: they don’t rely on others to deal with their problems; they don’t waste time on bemoaning the unfairness of their condition; they accept the consequences of the often dire situations they find themselves in and manage to adapt and survive, and even carve a little bit of happiness and inner peace in the process.

It was refreshing to see them struggle and sometimes fail, but always get back up and keep on fighting. And it was refreshing to see the fae depicted not as good or bad, but just totally different.

 And I won’t say another word about the story of Cold Hillside, because I want to avoid spoilers, and because the unraveling of the story is part of the delightful experience that is this book. But I would say that it’s definitely worth picking up for your holiday reads.

 P.S. This review is for the advanced copy of the book I received from NetGalley.