Tag Archives: book reviews

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.

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.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F Hamilton.

Abyss

Stars: 5 out of 5

The Abyss Beyond Dreams is a rather hard book to describe, because it’s equal part science fiction and fantasy. In a way, it reminded me of Inversions by Iain M Banks – an author I absolutely love.

In Inversions, we have an agent from the Culture, a highly advanced space faring civilization, living as the personal doctor to a king on a medieval planet. The people around her don’t know anything about starships, other planets or even that their world is a round ball orbiting another round ball of burning gas. And the reader experiences the story through the eyes of one of the locals to whom a lot of what the doctor does seems like magic.

We have a bit of a similar situation in this book. There is a large and highly advanced civilization called the Commonwealth that is very reminiscent of Mr. Banks’s Culture. Several Commonwealth colony ships get sucked into the Void, a mysterious area in the center of the universe that nobody has ever returned from. What they discover inside is a world where normal laws of physic don’t always apply and things that seemed impossible become ordinary. Their highly technological ships, robots and nano-enhancements fail. But they discover that they all have acquired telepathic and telekinetic abilities instead.  They crash land on the only inhabitable planet within reach of their rapidly failing starships and call it Bienvenido.

Fast forward about 3000 years and the civilization founded by the colonists has devolved as far down as the high middle ages, with a rigid system of casts ruled by a corrupt nobility and a justice system that favors the rich and powerful. The civilization is stagnating, so buried under the burden of traditions that all notion of progress is killed in the cradle. And into this culture that has forgotten that once upon a time it traveled between stars, lands a man freshly sent by the Commonwealth to find out what happened to the missing ships. And Nigel Sheldon is just the man needed to create a few waves in this stagnating cesspool and maybe start a revolution.

I loved this book. It has this wonderful mix of science fiction and fantasy that is very hard to pull off well, and Peter Hamilton accomplishes it to perfection. We are introduced both to the highly advanced world of Commonwealth, where technological and biological advances have made even death optional. And then we are fully immersed in the rather medieval world of Bienvenido, where technology is reduced to a bare minimum, but everyone can use teekey (telekinetic) powers and talk to each other through ‘path (telepathic) voice.

Then there is the significant detail that Bienvenido is under constant attack from the Fallers – mysterious black eggs that fall from the sky on regular intervals. They sure people to touch them, and absorb them. Once absorbed, the egg hatches and a Faller is born. It’s an exact copy of the person who had been absorbed, but it only has one thought on its mind – destroy the humans of Bienvenido. Nobody knows why those Fallers are so hostile, or how to do more than mitigate the damage they do, because to defeat them, humans have to bring the fight to the sky, and nobody has flown off planet in milenia.

I loved the characters I got to explore the mysterious Void and the planet of Bienvenido with. I loved the highly complex and fleshed-out world the author built. And the story itself is a good mix of adventure, horror, and high politics. It’s especially interesting to see how  a few well-placed “pebbles” can have a ripple effect that brings about a tsunami of civil unrest that washes away the old order and attempts to created something better out of the wreckage. I loved following Slvasta around and seeing him evolve from a naïve young trouper dreaming of glory and axing his first egg to a battle-hardened young man who still managed to preserve his integrity, no matter how much he had to go through.

The Void is a bizarre and fascinating world, and I am really looking forward to exploring it farther in the next books in the series.

So is this book worth buying? Yes, definitely. You are guaranteed to spend several days (this book is over 600 pages long) happily immersed in a very detailed and interesting world.

PS. This review is for and advanced copy I received courtesy of NetGalley.

The Younger Gods by Michael R Underwood.

The Younger Gods

Stars: 4 out of 5

It’s been a while since I read a good urban fantasy book that didn’t center around fae or werewolves / vampires and didn’t include a romance. In fact, I had come to the sad belief that these were the only books the genre had to offer. So The Younger Gods by Michael R Underwood was like a breath of fresh air.

Jacob Greene came to New York to escape the clutches of his very overbearing and secretive family and start a new life away from the cult. Jacob’s only worries now are to try and fit into this strange new world that is life at St. Mark’s University, keep his grades up to keep his scholarship, and stretch his meager allowance in order not to die of hunger before the end of each month. Then a crucified body is found in one of the New York parks, and Jacob realizes that his family has caught up with him…

I absolutely loved the main protagonist. Jacob is a smart and well educated boy, even though his knowledge mostly lies in the field of summoning monsters and performing human sacrifices.  He is completely lost in the intricacies of the normal college life, and his social skills are so bad that he can’t seem to make friends. The author did an excellent job showing the complete lack of common ground between Jacob and his classmates. They didn’t read the same books, didn’t hear the same stories, and Jacob just doesn’t understand any of the mass culture references we all take for granted. And his over-flowery and slightly archaic speech makes him seem even more alien. Jacob tries so hard to fit in, to put his less than normal childhood behind him, but when he hears about the murder on the news, he immediately recognizes his sister’s signature.

I like the fact that the idea to simply walk away and think “it’s not my problem” doesn’t even cross Jacob’s mind. It’s his family, so it’s his problem. If he has to stop the apocalypse all by himself, he will do it, or die trying. That shows a tremendous strength of character.

And the author also did a very good job showing the diversity of races and cultures in New York city. All of the secondary characters come from different ethnicities and cultural (and magical) backgrounds. Carter is an Indian (dot, not feather) Nephilim, Antoinette is a voodoo practitioner from Haitian descent, and Dorothea is a black ex-NYPD cop who became a Brooklyn Knight. And they are not just clichés put in the book just to act as a background to Jacob’s adventures. They are well fleshed out characters. Oh, and there are also Staten Island werewolves, Rakshasa from Queens and a multitude of other magical beings that call New York home.

The pacing of the book is fast and gripping. There isn’t a single dull moment. It’s even a bit too fast in places, and I caught myself wishing for the action to slow down and give myself and the characters a breather. But at least it’s never boring!

My only complaint is that there are still some errors in the copy I read. For example, Nate is described as a man when we first meet him, but halfway through the chapter, he is suddenly referred to as “she”, then he becomes a “he” again when we next meet him. But I think all those problems are due to the fact that I read the ARC of the book I got from NetGalley, and hopefully didn’t make it into the published version of the book.

So if you like strong characters and an interesting story, you should definitely pick up The Younger Gods. I will be looking forward to the next book in the series.

The London Project by Mark J Maxwell

The London Project

Stars: 3 out of 5

I liked the story in The London Project. The world is a quite interesting (albeit chilling) vision of a possible future. The total monopoly of Portal over the lives of Londoners reminded me a lot of George Orwell’s 1984. “Big Brother watches you,” indeed…

This story also had all the things I usually like: a futuristic setting, a murder mystery that the protagonist has to solve, influential people determined to thwart her at every turn, and a bigger conspiracy emerging during the investigation. The story had the potential to keep me interested and turning the pages into the late hours of the night, but… it didn’t.

The biggest problem with this book, at least for me, is the pacing. For a thriller to work, the author needs build the tension progressively throughout the book, and never ever let it falter. The story has to grip me from the get go and drag me along, making me want to turn the next page to discover what happens.

Unfortunately, the abundance of technical and world-building explanations break the tension and slow down the pacing, sometimes bringing it to a screeching halt. I found myself frustrated when I wanted to know more about the investigation into the dead girl, but had to read through info dump after info dump about Portal and their little monopoly over London and how the technology worked. I know it’s probably relevant to the story and serves to introduce the reader into this world, but for me, it killed the suspense and the drive to continue reading. When I find myself skipping the explanations to get to the plot, I know I won’t stick with the book. And I probably wouldn’t have if it wasn’t an ARC I had agreed to review.

I didn’t need all those detailed explanations into the workings of Portal in the first 10 chapters. I would have been perfectly happy with a few brief mentions of it and a lot more focus on the case itself. But then again, I am the kind of reader who likes being lost in a world, to discover it progressively throughout the book, looking for breadcrumbs of information the author left on the pages and drawing my own conclusions. Info-dumps give me mental indigestions, because by the time I read through the explanation and assimilate it, the suspense is gone. I have to try and immerse myself in the story again… until the next info-dump.

This is sad, I think, because the book would have been a lot more interesting (and faster paced) if the author trusted the reader to understand his world without having everything spelled out. This is the case of when too much backstory does more harm than good.

I know that this is strictly a personal preference, so take my review with a grain of salt. What I find off-putting might not be so for another reader. So my advice is, if you like a well thought-out world and are not afraid of the slow pacing, give The London Project a try.

P.S. This review is for the ARC of the book I got from LibraryThing.

Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans

Of Bone and Thunder

Stars: 5 out of 5

This review is for the ARC of the book I have received courtesy of NetGalley.

I am in love with this book and I’m not afraid to admit it. Vietnam War meets a fantasy world? It could have crashed and burned if it had been poorly executed. Fortunately for me, Chris Evans pulled this off masterfully, and the end result is a book that I found very hard to put down.

The premise Of Bone and Thunder is quite simple: the Kingdom is waging war in Luitox, a strange tropical land full of “savages” that the brave army of the Kingdom came to liberate from the Forrest Collective. That’s the official story anyway, but to most of the characters in this book, that propaganda is irrelevant. What matters to them is whether they will live to see another day and whether their squad will make it out alive as well.

I loved the fact that the author didn’t go into rhetorics or political explanations of this war in the Lux. Instead, he chose to tell this story through the eyes of regular soldiers, those forced to fight and die for ideals they don’t understand in a land that is absolutely foreign to them, against an enemy that knows the terrain and can literally disappear at will.

There isn’t one single protagonist in this book. We follow several characters instead. There is  Carny, a young crossbowman and his fellow soldiers from the Red Shield. The young thaum Jawn, who arrives to the Lux full of ideals and dreams of glory which are soon shattered against the gory reality of war. Obsidian flock leader Vorly and his thaum Breeze who fly real fire-breathing dragons called rags. And several other unique characters.

We see the war through their eyes; we follow them from simple skirmish to battle to desperate fight for survival, and we see them change. And that’s the biggest strength of this book. All the characters we follow are flawed in their own way. Jawn is naïve but also arrogant; Carny is an addict who doesn’t care about anything and anyone but himself; and the only thing Vorly cares about is his rags. And the other members of the Red Shield squad were just as bad. I hated some of them at the beginning of the book…

Yet they change, they evolve, they grow on you, so much so that you start cheering for them, hoping that they will make it out of one desperate situation after another in one piece. And when some of them die, it really hurts, like you have just lost a good friend.

With subtle strokes of the brush, the author also showed us how a ragtag group of men transforms into brothers in arms. You can see the moment when concern or individual safety is overruled  by concern for the safety of fellow squad members. When the words “leave no man behind” suddenly become a moto to live by. And Carny gives up the drugs and assumes the mantle of Squad Leader because there is nobody else left to do it. Vorly risks his life and the life of his precious rag to help the troops on the ground he had transported so many times that he grew to consider his own. And Jawn risks both his life and his sanity to defeat enemy thaums  before they annihilate the small army surrounded by an enemy force twice its size in the valley of Bone and Thunder. And the words “Anything for the greater good” gain a truly sinister meaning.

 Of Bone and Thunder is the story of a big war described through a multitude of small, almost personal wars, and that’s what makes it so powerful. This book leaves a lasting impression long after you finished reading.

So my advice is read this book. Definitely and without reservation.

The Undying by Ethan Reid

The Undying

Stars: 2.5 out of 5

This review is for the ARC I have received courtesy of NetGalley.

The Undying by Ethan Reid could have been a great book. When I read the blurb, I really looked forward to diving into the book itself. I mean two young American tourists trying to survive an apocalyptic event in Paris, as our civilization falls apart? That ought to be a an interesting read, no? Especially if you add the undying (the author’s version of zombies) into the mix. I love Paris, I love disasters books and I love zombies. So this book was right up my alley.

Unfortunately, my excitement about the premise was quickly dampened by the execution. First of all, the prologue takes place months after the event, and the author tells us right there and then that only Jeanie and the baby will survive. This makes it very difficult to empathize with any characters in the book. I mean why bother caring about Ben, Zou, or Farid if you already know they won’t make it to the end? And even during the episodes when Jeanie is in serious trouble, I wasn’t worried about her, because I knew from the prologue that she would survive. And not being able to care about the characters makes for a very boring read.

The cataclysmic event itself is well described. It was scary to see the familiar topography of Paris transforming into a death-trap for its inhabitants. I also liked the progression of events and how the author slowly plunged our world into Hell. First the light go out, but there is a beautiful Aurora Borealis in the sky, and it’s New Year’s Eve, so nobody pays too much attention to the loss of power, because everyone is too busy celebrating. It’s the next morning, when the skies get shrouded with dust and rocks start falling down, that the chaos really begins. The author built the tension well, with things going progressively from bad to worse, and the appearance of the undying plunging an already scary situation into the realm of cheer terror.

And the undying deserve a special mention. Those “moribund”, which are Ethan Reid’s take on the usual zombie trope, are really scary. Unlike their more mainstream counterparts, they are fast, they are cunning, and they hunt in groups.  In fact, their behavior is similar to a pack of wolves or a pride of lions. Add to that the fact that they can bend shadows around themselves for concealment and that they are very fast learners, and you have a truly terrifying enemy. Most of the memorable moments in the book are tied to the undying, one way or another.  So they deserve the 2.5 stars.

Unfortunately, this building tension is constantly interrupted by Jeanie’s flashbacks to seemingly unrelated events, like the death of her father or the last conversation she had had with him. I understand the need to introduce the readers to her background, but it can be done as a paragraph or two here and there, not a whole chapter thrown in smack in the middle of the action.  By the time I made it through that chapter, all the tension was gone; I didn’t care what happened to the characters anymore.

The author chooses the oddest moments to go into those flashbacks or info dumps. For example, the protagonist and her friends are in the Louvres and they are running out of time. They need to get somewhere safe and underground before the temperatures outside rise to unbearable levels. That moment is full of tension, right? Will they make it? Will the find a place to hunker down?.. Yet the author choses to spend 3 (!) chapters making Jeanie talk to people about what they think happened to cause the disaster. All I wanted to do while I was reading this, was smack the protagonist on the head and yell, “Who cares? You have to get out of here NOW, not speculate on why this happened.”

So when the time runs out and characters start to die, I didn’t feel upset or sorry for them anymore. I felt frustrated with the author, because it felt like the exposition had just been a plot device designed to get rid of some of the characters.

I also couldn’t help but feel that the ending is rushed and rather anticlimactic, like the author ran out of steam and just wanted to wrap up the story really fast.

So The Undying  had sounded like a good book, but turned out a disappointment. But then again, everybody looks for something different in a book, so what I didn’t like, you might love. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this book, but ultimately it’s up to you to make your own choice.