Born of the Night ~ Sherrilyn Kenyon

  • Title:  Born of the Night
  • Author:  Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Series:  The League, #1
  • Genre:  Romance, Science Fiction
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Description:  In the Ichidian Universe, The League and their ruthless assassins rule all. Expertly trained and highly valued, the League Assassins are the backbone of the government. But not even the League is immune to corruption . . .

Command Assassin Nykyrian Quikiades once turned his back on the League—and has been hunted by them ever since. Though many have tried, none can kill him or stop him from completing his current mission: to protect Kiara Zamir, a woman whose father’s political alliance has made her a target.

As her world becomes even deadlier, Kiara must entrust her life to the same kind of beast who once killed her mother and left her for dead. Old enemies and new threaten them both and the only way they can survive is to overcome their suspicions and learn to trust in the very ones who threaten them the most: each other.

Review:  This is another I read along with the Vaginal Fantasy group at Goodreads. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. These books always tend to have more romance and sex that that with which I am comfortable.

That being said – I really enjoyed the characters. Though, gotta admit, every single time the phrase ‘tiny dancer’ was used, I had Elton John streaming through my head. I don’t know if this was entirely intentional on Ms. Kenyon’s part, but it is a fact. It is basically the story of the daughter of a rich politician and the man hired to protect her. It is science fiction solely because it happens in a galaxy far, far away and because the bodyguard hired is from another planet. Well, they both are – it happens in another galaxy.

I liked Kiara. She was gentle yet didn’t lie down and let people walk all over her. She was strong yet didn’t let the circumstances of her life create a tough as nails kick ass character. When we first see her, she has been taken captive. She knows that her captors do not have her best interests at heart and plots and schemes ways that she can escape. Or at least damage those who wish her harm. And, when the cavalry arrives, they see a young woman who will not go easily into the sunset.

Enter the assassin Nykyrian – said cavalry. Most of the mystery in this novel revolves around who he is and where he came from. While he and Kiara both share the lack of a mother in their lives, their childhoods have been remarkably dissimilar. While she has been sheltered and protected, even though not totally without loss, he has been battered and abused. He has loved her from afar for years, but, due to said childhood, feels unlovable. Their relationship is a bit . . . unbelievable. But, hey it is a romance, and doesn’t really pretend to be anything else, so unbelievable works. Just because it is unbelievable doesn’t mean it is without difficulties along the way – or, perhaps, because of that.

This is pretty much a straightforward romance with science fiction over tones. If you look to read this type of book and accept it as such, it is completely enjoyable. I give it 3.5 stars – rounded to 4 because I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

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The Eyre Affair ~ Jasper Fforde

  • Title:  The Eyre Affair
  • Author:  Jasper Fforde
  • Series:  Thursday Next, #1
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction
  • Format:  Audio Book
  • Source:  Overdrive Library
  • Reviewed by:  Sonja
  • Rating:  3 out of 5

Description:  Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

Review:  Well, wasn’t this one a nice kettle of fish. I must have listened to beginning of ‘The Eyre Affair’ a thousand times before I finally moved forward. Seriously. I counted. The beginning, as is so often the case especially in the case of books first in a series, is a bit of an info dump. What kept me going you ask? The reader: Susan Duerdan. Ms. Duerdan does such an amazing job, her voice is just mesmerizing. Simply mesmerizing. She gets everything exactly right, the tone, the expressions, the laughter, the concern, the humor – simply everything. She made me wish to listen to this book.

But, other than the narration, I was not taken with this book. Maybe it is all the time travel. . .  are you now, are you later, or are you way in the past? Maybe it was just the information overload. Maybe it is just all that doggone literature – literature which, I might add, I actually love. Maybe, it is just that there are too many ideas, amazing though they may be, competing for attention here. It may have been the lack of any real mystery – we know who the bad guy is almost immediately. Or, more probably, it is the political commentary happening.

The breadth of the story is about different literature books, especially, as you can tell by the title, Jane Eyre. It seems that if you time travel into a novel, you can change the way it turns out – at least from that publishing forward. This makes, as you can imagine, the original manuscripts of great literature extremely valuable and important. However, the only constant in this mash-up of time and literature is the constant referral to the War in the Crimea. Which, according to my research (and, I actually researched, I couldn’t believe I had missed such a politically charged war) happened over 100 years ago. So, I can only assume it is some oblique reference to current warlike conditions and many a political statement was being made. Or, at least the same statement – over and over again. And, it grew tiresome.

One of the reasons I listened to this novel was that I read many review that reference the humor in it. Sadly, I found it devoid of humor other than a wry smile a time or two. I don’t know if it was the British influence, the fact that I listened instead of read, I zoned out during those parts, or it just wasn’t funny. But, I was sorely disappointed.

Ultimately, I reluctantly give this one 2.5 stars. I really wanted to like it more. I really did. I am upgrading it to 3 stars because Ms. Duerdan made me want to hear more.

The Risen Empire ~ Scott Westerfeld

  • Title: The Risen Empire
  • Author: Scott Westerfeld
  • Series: Succession #1
  • Genre: Science-fiction
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: Erica
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  From the acclaimed author of Fine Prey, Polymorph, and Evolution’s Darling (Philip K. Dick Award special citation and a New York Times Notable Book) comes a sweeping epic, The Risen Empire, Scott Westerfeld’s dazzling hardcover debut.

The undead Emperor has ruled his mighty interstellar empire of eighty human worlds for sixteen hundred years. Because he can grant a form of eternal life, creating an elite known as the Risen, his power has been absolute. He and his sister, the Child Empress, who is eternally a little girl, are worshiped as living gods. No one can touch them.

Not until the Rix, machine-augmented humans who worship very different gods: AI compound minds of planetary extent. The Rix are cool, relentless fanatics, and their only goal is to propagate such AIs throughout the galaxy. They seek to end, by any means necessary, the Emperor’s prolonged tyranny of one and supplant it with an eternal cybernetic dynasty of their own. They begin by taking the Child Empress hostage. Captain Laurent Zai of the Imperial Frigate Lynx is tasked with her rescue.

Separated by light-years, bound by an unlikely love, Zai and pacifist senator Nara Oxham must each in their own way, face the challenge of the Rix, and they each will hold the fate of the empire in their hands. The Risen Empire is the first great space opera of the twenty-first century.

Review: Some books take a while to really get going, and some books throw you into the action from page one. This book was one of the latter. It opens with a thrilling space battle with a completely unexpected twist, and had me completely hooked from the get-go.

This is hard science-fiction (as opposed to the science fantasy from authors such as Jack Vance), with space travel at percentage-of-lightspeed, advanced technologies that sound scientific and plausible, and a suitably advanced culture that is completely believable. One of the coolest technologies is the synesthetic implant that everyone receives as standard, and which allows data to be viewed through the other senses a human possesses. Throughout the novel people see the real world in primary sight and have overlays in secondary and sometimes even tertiary sight, and it sounds pretty awesome. I also loved how there are four types of gravity: hard, easy, wicked and lovely. You’ll have to read the book for explanations of how they all work.

At the centre of the novel is the Empire of eighty worlds, ruled by the Risen Emperor and his sister, the Child Empress. The Emperor has done the impossible: he has found a way to conquer death and grant eternal life by means of a symbiotic implant, though this implant only works on dead people. This gift of immortality is controlled by the Emperor, and he has had absolute power over the eighty worlds for sixteen hundred years.

In contrast to this are the Rix, ‘enhanced’ humans who worship their planetary compound minds and wish to seed these AIs on every inhabited planet in the universe. Caught in the middle is Captain Laurent Zai, who is tasked with rescuing the Empress when she is taken hostage by the Rix.

This book has so much going for it that it’s hard to pin it all down. There is a thrilling space battle that takes up a big chunk of the book and at times takes place in microseconds, yet never gets boring. There is a good dose of politics, contrasting the unbending traditionalism of the Risen and their grey worlds with the pinks: those who believe that to be immortal is to be stagnant, and who would take the power away from the Risen. There is romance, in the form of the relationship between Zai and his lover Nara Oxham, a Senator from one of the pink planets. It introduces the concept of the Time Thief, the effect that the military experiences due to traveling throughout the universe at relativistic speeds. In essence this means that if they spend two years traveling at, say, ten percent of the speed of light, ten years may have passed in absolute time. Ten years relative to them could be fifty years absolute, so any family left at home will age and die long before they do.

I usually prefer to read fantasy over sci-fi, but when I do grab a sci-fi novel, this is the kind of novel that does it for me. Gripping from start to finish, and I can’t wait to read the conclusion.


 

A Study in Silks ~ Emma Jane Holloway

  • Title: A Study in Silks
  • Author: Emma Jane Holloway
  • Series: The Baskerville Affair #1
  • Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
  • Format: ebook
  • Source: Review copy
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to enjoy her first Season in London’s high society. But there’s a murderer to deal with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking mouse.

In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch, and sorcery the demon enemy of the empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?

But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.

Review:  A Study in Silks kicks off a new lightly steampunk series, The Baskerville Affair. I say lightly steampunk, because although the world is powered by steam and clockwork creations abound, the world really does not feel all that different from traditional historical romance. Hmm, romance is not really the right word, either, maybe historical chick lit? Clearly, it is difficult to pin down exactly which category owns this book, and well, defining books by genre has very little practical use, so I’ll move right along.

One can definitely define this book as a mystery. The main character, Evelina Cooper, has an inquisitive mind and a touch of magic, neither of which help her blend into London society any better than her dubious heritage. She is a guest in the family home of her best friend, with whom she is preparing for her introduction to debut into society when a series of mysterious events begin to unfold. Being niece to the illustrious Sherlock Holmes, Evelina, of course, sets out to discover the truth and hopefully protect those close to her.

I have mixed feelings about the use of Sherlock Holmes within the books. Other than solidifying Evelina’s natural inclination toward solving mysteries, I am not sure that it really serves much purpose in progressing the plot of the story. It almost feels as if the author is trying to create the effect of the celebrity cameo, a device which I find trite. Perhaps Holloway intends to use this relation as a resource in future books. Only times will tell.

For a book that is not really a romance, the story relies heavily another over-used trope, the love triangle. Throughout the book, Evelina finds herself torn between her affections for her BFF’s brother and someone from her questionable past. Both characters are depicted as intelligent, dashing, and full-of-life. They are also both a bit full of themselves and prove themselves unworthy of Evelina by the end of the book. I truly hope that Ms. Holloway does not try to use them as potential romantic interests in future books. I feel that both kind suitors leave behind burnt bridges in regards to Evelina’s affections. I have to admit that I love this. It is refreshing to read a story where the female lead is not defined by finding her true and everlasting love by the end of the book. Well done, Ms. Holloway.

Going back to the mystery, it is pretty ambitious, if a little convoluted. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt, considering this book is clearly also setting up deep intrigue for books to come. I appreciate that the author was unwilling to scrimp on the complexity of the story in favor of world building. I do so love a good enigmatic plot.

No matter how good the plot, it will remain unsatisfying without decent characters. Evelina is a character that I can like. She is smart, resourceful, and independent. I look forward to following her adventures as they unfold throughout the series. I also think there is more to her sidekick, er, I mean BFF.

My overall impression of the book was favorable. I am definitely interested to see where the author takes the series from here.

**Disclaimer: Reviewer was provided with a digital advance review copy of this book by the publisher via Net Galley.

Scarlet ~ Marissa Meyer

  • Title: Scarlet
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Series: Lunar Chronicles #2
  • Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, YA
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Description:  The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth…

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Scarlet picks up right where Cinder left off, but follows parallel plots featuring different groups of characters. The primary plot features Scarlet, a young woman in France who searching for her missing grandmother. She teams up with the mysterious Wolf, when evidence indicates his former gang may have Grand’Mere. Meanwhile, back in New Beijing, Cinder’s storyline is focused on her escape from prison with the aid of a dashing fellow prisoner, Captain Thorn.

The level of adventure is much higher in this book. While the first book was set in a scenario with a threat of danger, in this second book the danger has arrived. I found my heart racing and I could not stop reading (er, listening). Would they capture Cinder? Can Scarlet really trust Wolf? Is the Lunar Queen going to attack Earth? Well, my dear reader, those are things your will need to discover for yourself.

The world building in this series is so vivid. I like the soft feel of the science fiction fabric woven by Meyer. She gives us just enough description to accept the technology without having it intrude upon the story itself. This gives her much more room to focus not just on the intrigue (of which there is plenty), but also on the development a great characters.

Scarlet is both soft and strong, determined, yet compassionate. She is the perfect foil for our flawed hero, Wolf. Dear Wolf, so fierce and hard, yet he unable to deny his warm heart. My favorite new character, however, has to be Captain Thorn. His arrogant, yet charming demeanor brings a smile to my face. It is also refreshing to see that Cinder and Kai do not just become caricatures, as is often the case when the leads from the first book appear in the sophomore book of a series.

A growing cast of characters and plot lines can often result in an unwieldy storyline. Not in this case. Meyer masterfully weaves these threads together in a book that is exciting and satisfying. My only disappointment is that I have to wait several months until the release of the next book.

*Foot note: I want to also give a shout out to the narrator for this series, Rebecca Soler. She does a great job of creating distinct voices for her characters and capturing their emotions as appropriate. I also give major props to the cover artist. the covers for this series are simply awesome. The pop of red on each cover draws the eye, while the fairy tale font and the primary image hint at the fairy tale being adapted in each book.

The Doorkeepers ~ Graham Masterton

  • Title: The Doorkeepers
  • Author: Graham Masterton
  • Genre: Horror
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  Julia Winward, a young American woman, has been missing in England for nearly a year. When her mutilated body is discovered in the Thames, her brother, Josh, is determined to find out what happened to his sister during that lost time. But nothing Josh discovers makes any sense: Julia had been living at an address which hadn’t existed since World War II . . .


Review: 
This was a strange little tale. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I sometimes jump into a novel, knowing absolutely nothing about it, just to keep myself in suspense. I thought it would be a good idea to approach The Doorkeepers this way, since I did know that it fell into the horror genre. Early in the book, there is quick mention of the Abba song, Dancing Queen (one of my all-time favorite hits), and then character that mentions the song almost immediately orchestrates a rather vicious murder. It was almost as if Masterton chose that particular song to lull the reader into a false state of complacency so that when the brutality struck it would be all the more horrifying. Crafty boy.

The plot of The Doorkeepers follows the story of an American man and his girlfriend who journey to England to find out more about the murder of his sister. As they begin to investigate, they discover that his sister may not have been murdered in modern day England after all. It turns out that there are hidden doorways that act as portals between dimensions, and that she may have been living in another dimension at the time of her murder. No big deal, except that many of these dimensions are not happy, friendly places, and there are people willing to go to extreme and terrifying lengths to keep these doors open to maintain their warped version of the world.

I would have liked a little more detail in the world building – the author was kind of vague at times in his descriptions. For example, it was never quite clear exactly WHAT the Doorkeepers were. It also would have been nice to learn more about how/why Boudicca was able to create the doors in the first place.

The ending seemed rushed, almost like he could not think of a really good explanation or go bored or whatever. I is a pet peeve of mine when authors lack a solid conclusion. Nevertheless, overall, I’d say I enjoyed it. I like a good creepy tale. Some of the scenes were totally disturbing, but that is what I expect in a book like this. I hate when authors are writing about something horrifying and they shy away from actually making it so. So, I give Masterton credit for this.