Friday, February 26, 2016

REVIEW: Caretaker (Caretaker Chronicles, #1) by Josi Russell

***** (5) of 5 stars!

This book is incredible!  The setting is a fairly typical sci-fi one: people in the future in a ship in space.  But it is so much more than just that!  It is ultimately about relationships, love, duty, honor, sorrow, anger, loss and basically everything that makes up the human condition. 

The main character is Ethan Bryant, who has inadvertently become the Caretaker (hence the title) of 3,999 other souls, all in stasis, on the deep-space passenger transport ship he inhabits.  Although he was supposed to be sleeping alongside them as passenger 4,000, events conspired to make that not occur.  Now, as the story begins, Ethan has been alone on the ship for five years, with only the unconscious passengers and the disembodied computer voice for company.  But things are about to get interesting!

The first part of the story is a little slow, as the author takes some time for world-building, setting the scene and developing some backstory for context.  But much of the information gleaned through all of this proves useful later in the story.  She does an excellent job of sketching a living portrait.  The story just draws you in and makes you feel a part of it, and you quickly feel connected to the characters, even those in stasis, as you come to learn more about each of them. 

There are so many great twists and turns in the story!  I don’t want to offer any spoilers, but things changed so dramatically several times that it felt almost as though you were reading a different book each time.  Except that the author kept the storyline integrated, plausible and intriguing enough that it just flowed from one section to the next, taking the reader along for a spectacular ride.

There were a couple more times where the action slowed down quite a bit; at least one where it seemed to stop.  (Really, do we need to know so much about the manifest of the ship that Ethan transcribed?)  But overall the pace was pretty steady and the action sufficient to keep things moving forward.

The ending was one that you could kind of see coming, but even it had some interesting zigzags that you wouldn’t necessarily consider.  Many things about it were rather bittersweet, but they felt as though they were as they should be given the situation.  The book answered enough questions and left a satisfied feeling so that it would be fine if read as a stand-alone novel, but it still offered many questions and openings where a sequel could realistically occur. 

Definitely a book that I enjoyed and will recommend!

Monday, February 22, 2016

REVIEW: Havelock by Jane D. Everly

**** (4) out of 5 stars

There were several things about this book that I really disliked, and yet I found myself continuing to read more and more!  The plot of this action thriller is quite good, rather unique, and has just enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.  It is a classic spy story, with lots of intrigue and mystery.  Even with several things that I disliked about the book, the storyline and writing style was so good that it just pulled me along. 

There’s also a hint of sci-fi in the weapon utilized by the main bad guy and his numerous minions.  It is definitely something that you don’t see in the news today, but it is certainly believable enough that you can imagine something like it truly being invented.  Let alone that there are those out there, like Treadik, who would be crazy enough to use it.  He is a truly chilling antagonist, with a weapon so powerful that it goes beyond scary. 

I love that the main protagonist is a female, and butt-kicking female at that!  There are so few books with really strong women characters, especially not many who are as physically tough and resilient as Eliana Havelock.  The author also has an incredible, dry, understated sense of humor with which she infuses Eliana that I found entirely delightful.   

Most of the other characters are also fairly well developed for the varying amounts of attention that are paid to them.  I found many of the MI-6 crew intriguing; I was especially impressed with Rawlston and Waterstone, and really liked Quentin.  Even many minor characters with whom we did not spend much time came across as fairly well fleshed out.  Some of those who met an untimely end even engendered some sadness, which you wouldn’t expect from a one or two scene introduction. 

I did find many of the action scenes extremely unrealistic, especially the one where Eliana falls from a moving vehicle and basically walks away from the encounter.  All of the other injuries that she sustains throughout the course of the book, would seem to make nearly any activity very difficult, let alone some of the complex and strenuous things that she does. 

There was a lot of rather graphic violence that I found distasteful.  Not much of it was unwarranted for the plot of the story, but I still found it rather bothersome, some of it a little too descriptive.  This is definitely not a book for younger or squeamish readers.  And that doesn’t even touch on the often, shall we say, mature language; or the gratuitous sex scenes. 

The thing that I disliked the most was the switching in perspective from first-person present tense (from Eliana’s point of view) to third-person past tense with everyone else.  I was extremely annoying at first, although it did kind of grow on me a bit.  It made it easier to explain what the main character was thinking, as well as to see what was going on with everyone else.  Overall it was rather confusing and disconcerting to me as the reader, although I must say that the author did a superb job of switching between the two. 

I really enjoyed the ending in that it was fairly definitive, not a total cliff-hanger; but it left plenty of questions unanswered and lots of plot points with which to play.  I would guess there are is going to be at least one sequel, and possibly several more additions to the series.  Despite all of the things that I didn’t like about this book, I enjoyed it enough to read any future volumes, and would definitely recommend it as a very entertaining read. 

(I believe this story was first released in a serialized format, but I read the full book in it’s entirety.)  
I received a free Kindle electronic copy of this book from Curiosity Quills Press in exchange for an honest review.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

REVIEW: Grumpy Cat Volume 1 by Ben McCool, Royal McGraw, Elliott Serrano & Ben Fisher

*** (3) out of 5 stars

The action of this graphic novel focuses on Grumpy and her brother Pokey.  Before reading it, I was aware of Grumpy Cat as a character and had seen some of the related memes, but that was about all I knew.  First of all, I wasn’t aware that Grumpy was a girl, so seeing her referred to as “she” threw me off a bit.  And while I expected the character to be (obviously) grumpy, maybe rather surly and rude, possibly fairly sarcastic – I didn’t expect her to be as mean and vindictive as portrayed in the book.  I was especially disappointed in how poorly she treated her darling brother Pokey, not to mention Dog.
That being said, the many and varied story-lines of the different tales were unique, somewhat unpredictable, and definitely entertaining.  The book was much longer than I had anticipated, and contained a lot more stories than I expected. 

The graphics were excellent.  Even utilizing fairly minimalist backgrounds and a somewhat limited color palette, the pictures came across as fresh and vibrant.  And it is amazing how much emotion can be expressed in even rather basic drawings and a few simple words!

There were just a handful of times when I couldn’t make out the image in a panel, and that probably had more to do with the fact that I read it on my phone.  There were also occasional instances where I felt as though I was missing something.  (Like when they take out one too many panels from the extended version of the Sunday comics and you are left having to fill in the blanks between big jumps in the action sequence.)  And there were a few times also when I felt as though the characters were discussing something as part of an inside joke of which I was unaware.

So, overall, I found it an okay read, definitely entertaining, but nothing spectacular.  But probably for people who are fans of Grump Cat beforehand, this would be an excellent read!

I received a digital ARC of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

REVIEW: Lakhoni by Jared Garrett

**** (4) out of 5 stars!

What??? I seriously thought this was a stand-alone book! But apparently there is at least one sequel planned. Since the book ended on a total cliff-hanger -- and a really ambiguous one at that!

This is basically a tale of a young man trying to avenge his family, rescue his presumably kidnapped sister, and along the way try to do what is right. Unfortunately, for him, these things don’t seem to coincide with each other very well! Regardless, he remains brave and steadfast throughout, even when questioning himself, his motives and his options.

The author does a good job of world-building, creating a very believable predominantly meso-American style backdrop for the story. The story-telling is such that you feel aware enough of the workings of the prevailing cultural system to appreciate the atmosphere without being inundated by it.

There are a host of strong characters throughout the story. Some of them I definitely hope will make a return appearance in the sequel; and a few that I want to know more about, including further information about their backstories.

There are connections between characters that unfold as the story progresses that I never would have imagined at the outset. Not to mention surprising plot twists and intrigue from unexpected sources.

One of the only things that I didn’t like in the narrative was the vast amount of bad luck and poor circumstances that befall this kid. And I did find it a bit of a stretch to imagine that he emerged as relatively unscathed as he did from each encounter with all of the forces fighting against him.

But overall it was a great read; a very entertaining story with an encompassing writing style that just draws you into the story and doesn’t let go. I truly can’t wait to read the sequel!

I received a Kindle copy of this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.