The Anomaly wasn’t what I thought it was going to be…

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Nolan sets out to retrace the steps of an explorer from 1909 who claimed to have discovered a mysterious cavern high up in the ancient rock of the Grand Canyon. And, for once, he may have actually found what he seeks. Then the trip takes a nasty turn, and the cave begins turning against them in mysterious ways. Nolan’s story becomes one of survival against seemingly impossible odds. The only way out is to answer a series of intriguing questions: What is this strange cave? How has it remained hidden for so long? And what secret does it conceal that made its last visitors attempt to seal it forever? (From Goodreads)

What was enjoyable about this book was it could be a movie. Imagery in the book was pictured clearly and the plot was good enough to make you think ‘This should be a movie’

The plot was all right. It’s enjoyable and makes for quick reading. It’s not overly complicated and the action scenes provide a good thrill here and there. It flowed and kept things interesting, however around the midway mark of the book things slow down and not much happens. Things do pick up quickly in the latter half. I didn’t expect the outcome to turn out as it is. I was looking forward to more of a plot like the movie “The Descent” with more thrills and horror. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

The characters on the other hand, don’t have much to them. They’re pretty much flat and are just there to keep the story going. Although I admit I rather liked Ken throughout the book. He was brash and hotheaded. Everything was either a complaint or an insult which made him stand out from the others. Although Nolan was the ‘leader’ in this group there really wasn’t much to him. There was a small background story to Nolan to give him more substance but it really isn’t much.

There’s a lot of intrigue and some bits of thrilling scenes to enjoy, some mystery in the end but overall I can’t really say it’s something I would gush about. Perhaps because I was expecting this to be more of a horror than anything else. Which is too bad, it had potential to be better but it fell short. I’d say take it or leave it. There’s no regrets reading it but don’t expect it to be gripping and exciting. It’s…meh.

I give it a 6 out of 10.

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A Messed up anti-hero in a Dark Setting

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THE DEPARTED HAVE ARRIVED. The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah. (From Goodreads)

***Possible spoilers you’ve been warned***

I really enjoyed the world building in this book and wished there was a little more explanation about it. You do get snippets here and there on what happened with the world and why the Church came on top and in charge of the city. The setting is wonderful though. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s survival. It’s what you might see from a cyberpunk novel without the futuristic theme.

The plot itself is interesting thanks to the setting. It’s a nice blend of old and new. I say old because of the way the characters talk. It’s meant to be a form of street slang, but it also sounds a mixture of old english and modern. It’s interesting and fun to read (if you have a crush on Lex you’d like it). There is an element of mystery and I like the magic used. It’s a nice blend of using tattoos and actual spell components.

Chess is likable as a character. She’s hard working and is good at what she does, despite her faults and vices. The vices do play a big part on her behavior and takes a hold of her life. She still manages to soldier through her tasks and proves to be a fighter.

There is an aspect of a love triangle in the book although I’m not sure if it could be called that. I don’t see Terrible as a love interest at all, I see him more as a loyal friend and the muscle of the duo. Lex on the other hand – so swoon worthy if you’re into the bad boys. He’s self serving and most likely not a good thing for Chess but they both got this spark. Maybe it’s because of their backgrounds and they’re similar but they get along so well and Lex has this subtle charm about him (let’s not even compare him to Doyle)

This is a must read for urban fantasy fans. It’s got a bit of everything and Chess is such a great character to follow through the journey. Will definitely go onto the second book of the series.

I give it a 9 out of 10

Bleak atmosphere but the writing and storytelling are excellent

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Inspector Erlendur returns in this gripping Icelandic thriller When a skeleton is discovered half-buried in a construction site outside of Reykjavík, Inspector Erlendur finds himself knee-deep in both a crime scene and an archeological dig. Bone by bone, the body is unearthed, and the brutalizing history of a family who lived near the building site comes to light along with it. Was the skeleton a man or a woman, a victim or a killer, and is this a simple case of murder or a long-concealed act of justice? As Erlendur tries to crack this cold case, he must also save his drug-addicted daughter from self destruction and somehow glue his hopelessly fractured family back together. (From Goodreads)

***Spoilers you have been warned***

I loved Jar City because of the dark bleak mood setting that’s described in Erlandur’s world. This one proves to be just the same. Coupled with a well written mystery that goes back into the past, this one lived up to the previous.

The book goes back and forth in time. It features on the past of a woman and her family and the horrendous abuse she endures. It leads up to the mystery surrounding the body found in the present. It’s good background storytelling and put in the missing pieces gradually as you progress in the book. Then as it goes forward to present day, you have Erlandur and his crew attempting to figure out the mystery but it also focuses on Erlandur’s past, and his attempt at patching things up with Eva Lind as she’s in a coma at the hospital.

Don’t expect twists and turns or any special revelations in this novel. It’s a subtle mystery but so well written that it’s a quick read and you’re so immersed into the book that the pages do fly by. It’s the writing style that makes it so good. The mood and setting is again, dark as usual. It’s more bleak than the previous one due to the subject matter and with what Erlandur experiences.

Admittedly, this isn’t for everyone. The physical, mental, emotional abuse featured in this book is hard to read. You sympathize with the mother and her children and Grimur is just one awful piece of garbage. Erlandur’s ghosts from the past is also revealed in this book and he’s got quite a lot of baggage on his shoulders (not including his ex wife and Eva Lind) but it gives his character more substance and he’s not just a presence in the novel. You also learn more about his colleagues (although I’d like to learn more about Elinborg) as they have their lives as well. I like this aspect of the novel as it shows what they do out of duty and gives them a more realistic human feel to the book.

Not much of a mystery but makes for really good reading, not only do the characters flesh out more but the writing is so well done. Recommended and I’ll be moving onto the next book after this one.

I give it an 8.5/10

 

When Living Doesn’t Become Living No More..

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Lea Kirino is a “Lifer,” which means that a roll of the genetic dice has given her the potential to live forever—if she does everything right. And Lea is an overachiever. She’s a successful trader on the New York exchange—where instead of stocks, human organs are now bought and sold—she has a beautiful apartment, and a fiancé who rivals her in genetic perfection. And with the right balance of HealthTech™, rigorous juicing, and low-impact exercise, she might never die.  But Lea’s perfect life is turned upside down when she spots her estranged father on a crowded sidewalk. His return marks the beginning of her downfall as she is drawn into his mysterious world of the Suicide Club, a network of powerful individuals and rebels who reject society’s pursuit of immortality, and instead chose to live—and die—on their own terms. In this future world, death is not only taboo; it’s also highly illegal. Soon Lea is forced to choose between a sanitized immortal existence and a short, bittersweet time with a man she has never really known, but who is the only family she has left in the world. (From Goodreads)

I enjoyed the world building and setting here in this book. It’s set in the future, people now live much longer than normal. They are pumped up with various implants (e.g. Diamondskin) and follow a strict diet and exercise program, and even go as far as to reducing various activities that activate cortisol levels that put them on overdrive. It may seems appealing, because you live longer than the normal life span and you’re looking like a supermodel but at the same time there’s an underlying dictatorial tone where you have to follow the rules or you’ll be seen ‘different’ and won’t be qualified to have these perks anymore. Everything is dictated by the “Ministry” and once you fall off the path you’ll be observed by the men in black which could lead to potentially drastic results.

It’s an interesting world, where suddenly everything that you thought was normal isn’t anymore and is frowned upon. These special perks are not always granted to everyone because it’s also based on your genetics, your job, and your social standing as well. It’s appealing but at the same time it doesn’t sound so fun and it feels like you’re a drone.

The plot itself was interesting and follows two points of view. Lea and Anja. I prefer Anja’s point of view because she’s part of the underground Suicide Club movement for various reasons. She’s a carefree spirit who does what she wants despite society and its’ demands because she’s seen the other side of things and how it’s affected people she cares about (her mom in this instance). The two characters offer two very different perspectives in the novel and it all comes together nicely and seamlessly.

I rather enjoyed the part with Lea and Kaito on the boat. You feel the emotion and the sadness of what’s to come. You feel the regret of moments missed in life and although it can’t be made up in just one sitting, that one moment together still creates a powerful memory that stays with you – which no one can take away. It’s a bittersweet moment and the most memorable in the book.

Although the plot flowed through nicely, I can’t really say I like the writing style. It drags in some parts and it shows an attempt to be lyrical and poetic with way too many descriptions of smells and sights. I understand the point of it being that instead of becoming a drone like everyone else, stop and just live the moment and take in your surroundings. However it bogs down the reading flow and I found myself struggling to keep the pace. Less lyrical prettiness and let’s just get down to the basics shall we? It would have made the reading more enjoyable.

Overall, a great interesting idea and a good deep read. Worth the time to go through.

I give it a 6 out of 10.

Thank you Henry Holt and Co for the review copy!

 

Great collection of sci fi short stories

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Are you living in a simulation?

If you aren’t now, you soon will be. The technology is fast approaching, and within our lifetimes the vast majority of humanity may be plugged into their own private worlds, living out dreams indistinguishable from reality. It sounds like a paradise. But even paradise has its price.  Restricted Fantasies is a collection of short stories about lives lived inside and outside of virtual reality. The advent of simulated realities raises questions of philosophy and technology that drive at the core of our nature as humans—and in the tradition of classic sci-fi, the stories in this collection wrestle with these questions and with the shape of things to come.  (From Goodreads)

I hardly read short stories. I picked this one up because I was in a major sci fi withdrawal and needed something to read in that genre (plus I was going through a major synthwave moment – still am and needed the reading material to compliment the music)

So I’ll break down by story and grade each one.

Seven Minutes in Heaven (5/5)

I loved this blend of keeping tabs on people and making it into a highly addictive game. I’d probably join in on the fun too and feel like I’m contributing to society at the same time amassing enough points to battle that dragon. I’d be addicted just like the guy in this story.

Restricted Fantasies (5/5)

Disturbing but a good one. Imagine going into someone’s twisted world (ie: Where Nazis reign supreme) where he’s made a home in a camp and made himself King. You’d want to take the little girls out of that horrible environment too.

Panopticon (5/5)

A prison setting with an all seeing computer. The little twist in the end almost made me want to weep. I don’t know whether to congratulate on the deviousness of the plan, or to cry because of the gullibility of the other character. Still really good to read.

Second Honeymoon (3.5/5)

This one was okay. A bit of a cheap laugh because of the ending. The honeymoon was long over before it started with this couple. The idea behind it is amazing though. Who wouldn’t want to be in a virtual world where a dreamy pirate comes to rescue you 😉

Irish Grudge (2/5 )

I didn’t like this one. The guy had a lot of anger and resentment issues, lots of ambition and the whole story was just him ranting out. Meh.

First Contact (3.5/5)

This felt like longer than the rest of the stories. It was pretty good and interesting as it dealt with space exploration (apparently it’s a big huge competition) the ending would probably elicit a giggle or two – can you imagine being credited for discovering aliens in a massive love fest?

The Only Way Out is Down (4 / 5)

Another one where the ending made me laugh. You get that one person to ruin everything and you tell yourself it’s because of these immature people, this is why we can’t have nice awesome things. I loved the idea of world creation until that one person comes to ruin it all with stupidity.

Cheat Code (5/5)

I really liked this one! It’s almost like the sci-fi version of the Monkey’s Paw! The wishes just get more insane as the story progresses. You wouldn’t think of it but there is such thing as too much and too many wishes.

Rumspringa (1/5 )

My least favorite. I didn’t care too much for the main character who came off pretty whiny and behaved like a lovesick cow. And she falls for it again too, to add to the frustration. It was drawn out and just felt too long and filled with self pity. My least favorite story in this collection.

Smartest Guy in the Room (5/5)

You really feel for the guy here. Intelligent, a bit on the anti social side, his condescending view on everyone is off putting and he does sort of get his comeuppance in the end. But just when he thought he’s ready to put some real effort into society he gets the shaft. It’s funny and ironic at the same time.

Pleasuredome (1/5)

My other least favorite. It’s just a narration on how he just love spending time in his fantasy world. You do get a bit of the background on where the world is headed and we’re pretty much doomed, but this story didn’t really do justice and it was all about the character having a blast.

Overall a few duds but the majority of the short stories were excellent. Definitely recommended and worth the time to read.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

Thanks Netgalley for the review copy!

 

Barely Any Suspense But The Underlying Theme…

48fc036cb417fe6596d4b637051434f414f4141.jpgCarl Louis Feldman is an old man who was once a celebrated photographer. That was before he was tried for the murder of a young woman and acquitted. Before his admission to a care home for dementia. Now his daughter has come to see him, to take him on a trip. Only she’s not his daughter and, if she has her way, he’s not coming back . . Because Carl’s past has finally caught up with him. The young woman driving the car is convinced her passenger is guilty, and that he’s killed other young women. Including her sister Rachel. Now they’re following the trail of his photographs, his clues, his alleged crimes. To see if he remembers any of it. Confesses to any of it. To discover what really happened to Rachel. Has Carl truly forgotten what he did or is he just pretending? Perhaps he’s guilty of nothing and she’s the liar. Either way in driving him into the Texan wilderness she’s taking a terrible risk. For if Carl really is a serial killer, she’s alone in the most dangerous place of all . . . (From Goodreads)

I was psyched for this one! I love these kinds of books that keep you guessing and sets you on the edge of suspense. Among other things that are prevalent throughout the novel. Unfortunately, I think I was just a little too hyped over this book.

Although the plot had some good moments and the occasional suspense, I found it lackluster and often wondering where this is going to take me. I wish the mystery and suspense was more heightened. It was a very flat plot with not much going for it except the mysterious bits and even  then, it feels like you hit what you think it was a climax only for it to die down quick and we’re back to the same flat plot line again. It feels like a long dreary car ride with people you don’t like. (The entire book they’re frequently on the road, so this relates.)

When all the mystery is revealed – it was all right. Yet it felt like a simple shrug of the shoulder and it was off to go back home. It was a bit frustrating, and it wasn’t anything to be surprised about. Nothing creeping from out of the blue, or anything to blind side you. It’s similar to the feeling when you are opening a gift and you already know what it is. There’s not much element of surprise or much feeling to go with it.

However, the one theme I did like was the one with dementia. It’s pictured with accuracy and this aspect of the book was well written. You can feel the high strung energy and  the main character feeling ready to snap when Carl starts going off track in his mind and unfortunately that’s really how it is when dealing with someone who is suffering from this disease. It’s extremely hard to maintain your patience but at the same time you are realizing it’s not their fault. Her relationship with Carl throughout the novel perfectly depicts this and because of this dynamic, this was why I stuck through and read the book.

This book could have been better in the suspense area. Overall the plot is pretty much lackluster and had few suspenseful moments. Worth reading? I say read for the character relationship and development. Otherwise those that want a scare or a surprise won’t find any of that in here at all.

I give it a 4 out of 10.

I was given this ARC through a contest I won. Thank you!

Ghost story and asylums? Awesome! Romance and Dragged out Ending? Boo!

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In 1919, Kitty Weekes, pretty, resourceful, and on the run, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House, a remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War. Hiding the shame of their mental instability in what was once a magnificent private estate, the patients suffer from nervous attacks and tormenting dreams. But something more is going on at Portis House—its plaster is crumbling, its plumbing makes eerie noises, and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms. It’s known that the former occupants left abruptly, but where did they go? And why do the patients all seem to share the same nightmare, one so horrific that they dare not speak of it? Kitty finds a dangerous ally in Jack Yates, an inmate who may be a war hero, a madman… or maybe both. But even as Kitty and Jack create a secret, intimate alliance to uncover the truth, disturbing revelations suggest the presence of powerful spectral forces. And when a medical catastrophe leaves them even more isolated, they must battle the menace on their own, caught in the heart of a mystery that could destroy them both. (From Goodreads)

Anything to do with a horror ghost theme and an asylum has to be good right? Well, yes and no. The book was somewhat enjoyable to read but it had its’ moments.

The plot itself was good. It  had the elements of a good gothic theme – not scary enough to make people read it in daytime (seriously?) but it had some good decent creep factor in it. It’s enough to set the mood and theme of the book but nothing to make the skin crawl. The element of mystery was also there and the ghost story aspect was good – nothing to blind side you – except perhaps for a little twist in the end (with where the ghost was and who was it manipulating etc etc). It’s pretty much a stable plot with all the main points closed (or is it? *queue creepy organ music*) so I’d have to say the gothic ghost story was what was in it for me.

Character wise. Kitty is likable. She’s resourceful, and a survivor from horrible abuse. Big applause for her for being strong and able to stand up and survive through various ordeals. Captain Mabry stood out for me because I enjoyed reading about his character. He seemed to be the strong stable silent type in the asylum where you have various patients with various issues (most were casualties of World War One) and there was a certain calmness about him that made him likable.

It’s pretty much obvious Kitty and Jack were to be together. The romance aspect in the book was all right. Necessary? I’m not sure perhaps. It’s not really for me. When their romance was more cemented was where the book was starting to take a slight turn downhill.

So near the ending when everything was revealed, all plot holes start to close. Sometimes, depending on the writing, you can stretch it out and make it interesting. Or you can make it drag. This one, unfortunately drags. We’re done with the ghosts, everything was answered, and the last 30 pages or so I just wanted the book to end. The romance of Kitty and Jack intensify and this is where intense eye rolling is also induced. Dear Lord, am I reading this just to see if there’s a scary twist at the end? Or am I wasting my time? Well sadly, I wasted my time. It was good to see what happened to characters like Mabry, and even Matron, but it just dragged way too much. Yeah okay we get it Kitty and Jack forever. Why do we need so many pages of this, am I suddenly reading a romance now?

Other than the ghost story in this book, the romance nearly killed it for me and a dragged out ending. Perhaps a nice twist in the ending would be nice. Or maybe skim the 30 pages and be done. I would say take it or leave it with this book. It was moderately enjoyable for me.

I give it a 5 out of 10.