Category Archives: adult novel

Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

mockingbird coverPsychic Miriam Black returns in Mockingbird, the second book in the series named for her. As the novel opens, Miriam is attempting something she hasn’t done for years – she is trying to settle down and live with Louis. She even has a real job, working as a checkout girl at a grocery store in Long Beach Island. But it isn’t long before Miriam becomes restless, and starts looking for a way out. Hoping to appease her psychic powers, which are clamoring to be used, Miriam’s boyfriend Louis takes her to meet a teacher at a school for troubled young girls on his trucker route. The teacher, Katey, is convinced she is dying, and Louis hopes Miriam can use her ability to give Katey some answers. Things are never that easy for Miriam, though, and while she is at the school she bumps into a young girl and sees her shocking and terrifying murder. Not even Miriam can ignore this, and the unwilling psychic is set on a quest to uncover a murder plot and save the lives of teenagers almost as messed up as she is.

In Mockingbird, Wendig brings us another snarky, drama-filled story centering around the reluctant heroine Miriam. As Miriam learns more about her powers, we learn more about her world. Miriam doesn’t just randomly see the death of everyone she touches – she has been given this “gift” by a higher power that expects her to use it, whether she likes it or not (for her, usually not). We don’t know much about the higher power, aside from the fact that is has a obsession with birds, using them as its messengers. It isn’t some cute, benevolent higher power that manifests with bright lights and the scent of roses. It’s violent and demanding. It may be trying to save lives, but it doesn’t have much regard for Miriam’s in the process. I like this switch for the norm in fantasy writing. Miriam sees death. It wouldn’t make sense for whatever is controlling this power to be calm and polite. Instead  it manipulates and threatens Miriam into doing what it wants. It’s dark and a little terrifying and I like it.

We get a smidgen of this novel told from Louis’s point-of-view. Truthfully I don’t remember if we got any of his perspective in the last novel but I am like 95% sure we did not. For me, this was a nice break to get out of Miriam’s head, which is a very scary place. But Louis’s story is still dark and tragic, and leaves the reader wondering whether Louis would be better off if he just let Miriam leave him. Why is Louis so desperate to stay with Miriam despite how badly she treats him? Perhaps this question will be answered as the series continues.

3 stars

3 stars out of 5 for Mockingbird. The plot is creepy and surprising. I saw part of the ending coming, but definitely not all of it. I love when authors can surprise me. Unfortunately I don’t think this book series is for me. The stories I like. But Miriam Black is just too harsh and obnoxious for me to get emotionally invested in her. It’s not that I don’t like reluctant heroes, and sometimes I can even get behind protagonists who are not likable. I liked Jalan in Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War series, and he was an ass. Maybe it’s because Miriam is a woman that’s an ass? I bet there’s some long, psychological name for not minding a male protagonist who is a jerk, but disliking a female. Although, Miriam is not the same sort of terrible person as Jalan. I don’t know. I haven’t had enough coffee yet to complete this self-analysis. I just know that I won’t be continuing with this series. I do intend to seek out Chuck Wendig’s other writing, though, like the books he wrote in the Star Wars universe. Like I said, I like the books, I just don’t like Miriam. I still recommend this series for fans of urban fantasy who don’t mind a brash, profane, obnoxious heroine.


The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin


Three terrible things happen in a single day.

Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world’s sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes — those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon — are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.

She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

fifth seasonI’ve never read a book quite like this one, which is saying something, because I have read A LOT of books. While most of the story was told from Essun’s perspective, she told it in a unique way. Rather than saying, for example, “When I found my son dead, I knew I had to take revenge” the text would read, “When you find your son, your first thoughts are those of revenge.” The story was not exactly told from a second person perspective, but the phrasing drew the reader in and allowed the reader to experience the story in an unusual way.

I struggled a bit with the world-building in this novel. On one hand, I believe this was an intentional choice by the author. The characters did not know everything, in particular information about the history of the world, so the reader did not either. On the other hand, I was well into the novel before I started to understand the system of magic. I generally appreciate authors who show rather than tell, but because this world was so different from any I had read before, I could have used a bit more tell.

As best as I could understand, the premise of the world was this: The people who can use “magic” in the world are called orogenes. Orogenes can control the way the earth moves – for example, they can stop or start an earthquake. They are feared, and are therefore controlled by a group called Guardians. We don’t know much about Guardians, but we know they can nullify the powers of the orogenes, and keep them from using their power to take over the world. People who do not have power, or are not Guardians, are called stills. The world is called The Stillness. Every few decades, the world experiences some sort of natural disaster which brings about a Season. Seasons can last for just a few years, or a century depending on the disaster. Orogenes use their powers to try to prevent Seasons. Orogenes are “recruited” when they are very young and train in the Fulcrum. There are no failures at the Fulcrum. You either learn to control your powers or you die. Orogenes have no lives outside the ones the Fulcrum and Guardians allow them to have. Some orogenes are more powerful than others. The more rings an orogene earns, the more power they wield.

When we meet Essun, a huge natural disaster has just occurred and a Season is about to begin. Essun suspects the Season will last at least a century. She is determined find her daughter–and kill her husband to avenge her son–before the Season really takes over and people begin dying. She is an orogene in hiding, and on top of the loss of her son and missing daughter, she must struggle with the idea of letting her power back out into the open in order to survive. She is not the most likable character, but as a reader you definitely become invested in her story.

4 and a half stars

Four and a half stars for this beautiful piece of high fantasy. Not quite five stars, because the timeline was a bit tricky in this novel. I was about halfway through the novel and considering giving up because I couldn’t put things in order, and felt like things were never going to make sense. It was worth it, but I would have liked things to come together just a bit sooner, since I was getting frustrated. But when the penny dropped, so to speak, I devoured the second half of the book. I keep forgetting I finished it, and want to pick it back up and continue being immersed in the story. There is so much we still don’t know! And what we do know is just so impressive. I am so impressed by this author’s world-building and imagination. I don’t know if I would necessarily want to live in this world, since it does end fairly regularly, but I still loved it. The next book is called The Obelisk Gate, and I want it immediately. I need to know what happens to Essun and her friends next. I can’t wait to get back into this world. If you are fans of high fantasy, like Brandon Sanderson or Mark Lawrence, go out and read this book!

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

I am a very lucky human in that not only did my fabulous aunt attend San Diego Comic Con, she happened to be attending the day Del Rey Books gave away free ARCs of Plague of Giants. This is the first time I have ever been able to read a book before it was officially released. *squee!!*

wonder woman happy

Me, when I heard my aunt snagged a copy of the book. 

I have to say the novel is spectacular. I loved it. I laughed, I cried, the book had it all. And I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. Well, OK. I didn’t necessarily doubt that the story would be good. I do love Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles. When I saw Hearne speak in Philly a few months ago, he told us about Plague of Giants. He told us it had something like 11 different POVs. I was intrigued, but had serious doubts I would be able to keep everyone straight. And while I did have to cheat and check the character list and (brief) description at the beginning of the book once or twice, each character spoke so eloquently with their own voice that it was not hard to keep track of who was who. And it was a masterful way to tell the story – hearing the same event from multiple perspectives, including battles… But I get ahead of myself.

plague of giants hearne cover

In brief, Plague of Giants is exactly what it sounds like – a novel about a land that is invaded by not one but two sets of giants. One group of giants, the Hathrim, are chased from their home by a volcano, and they settle in a land governed by humans without asking permission. Definitely not the best way to win friends and influence people. The leader of this group of Hathrim, Gorin Mogen, is one of the voices for the story. The giants, the Bone Giants, are even less friendly. They destroy everything they encounter, no one has ever seen them before, and no one can speak their language.


Sophie the Guard Hound felt vindicated when I told her about the meat-eating attack squirrels in the novel. She always knew squirrels are trouble. 

The rest of the characters are citizens of the six countries the giants invade. Each country worships a different god, and each god can grant a specific kenning. A kenning is a type of magic connected to an element. The Hathrim’s kenning allows them to control fire. The Brynts can control water, including the water in the human body. The Fornish are particularly cool – they live in the trees, and their kennings can do things like allow them to move silently, or help plants grow. Not everyone has a kenning – those who do are called blessed. In order to become blessed, a person must go through a trial they will either survive to become blessed, or die in the attempt. Seeking a kenning is not for the faint of heart.


Here are a few of my favorite characters:

Fintan, the Raelach bard – Fintan’s kenning allows him to have perfect recall. He tells stories to a city full of people who have survived or fled attacks by the violent Bone Giants. When Fintan tells a story, he becomes the storyteller – he looks like them, and speaks in their voice.

Dervan, the scholar – Dervan does not have a kenning, he is a historian and a scholar. The pelenant, or leader, of his homeland Brynt asks him to keep a written record of Fintan’s stories. Dervan and Fintan become friends as the novel progresses.

Gondel, scholar of language – Gondel is the first person able to translate the Bone Giants’ language, making him a valuable resource in the battle against the invaders. He is the type of scholar who gets so involved in his work he forgets about his husband for weeks at a time.

Tallynd, tidal mariner – Tallynd’s kenning allows her to work with water. She can breathe under water and swim really fast, to describe it in the most simplistic terms possible. She is the first person to discover the Bone Giants’ invasion, and she warns as many cities as she can at great personal sacrifice.


These are just a few of the many speakers Hearne uses to tell the story, each with their own voice, personality, and opinions. There were of course some humorous (almost Iron-Druid-esque, if that’s what you are reading for) moments as well. I hesitate to quote any of them, as the book had quite a few warning not to quote anything until the finished book is published. I suppose you will have to take my word for it that though the book contains a dark subject matter, including tragedy and war-related death, the Hearne humor we have come to know and love does sneak in occasionally, lightening the mood and makes the characters more interesting and relatable.


Imaginary map!

I did miss having a map, which is apparently a drawback to getting an Advanced Reader Copy. I was kinda amused by what I got instead though. I’m sure the map will be lovely in real life. There was quite a bit of traveling in the novel, and that is the sort of thing I am not good at visualizing. Ah well. The important thing is, I got an ARC!


There was a lovely moment towards the end of the novel when Dervan realizes he is not going to be able to return to his old job as a teacher and scholar. He has a moment of crisis in which he contemplates the question, “If I am not a teacher, who am I?” This resonated with me, since I recently lost my job as a music teacher. Watching Dervan, along with many other characters, figure out their place in their new world helped me get through a few rough days. Cliche? Probably. But reading and becoming part of their stories made me feel better, and that’s what reading fantasy is all about, isn’t it?

5 stars

A rare five out of five stars from me for Plague of Giants. It is an amazing piece of high fantasy, with deep, well-developed characters, detailed world-building, and an exciting, involving plot. If you are a fan of authors like Brandon Sanderson, Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie, or Robert Jackson Bennett, you will love this book. If you liked the Iron Druid Chronicles, you will most likely enjoy this book as well, though it is much darker and more intense than Attitcus and Oberon, and of course lacks the pop culture references that Atticus loves to sprinkle into conversation. Plague of Giants releases October 17th. If you can’t pre-order it, ask your local libraries to buy it for you!

Perdition by Ann Aguirre

The prison ship Perdition, a floating city where the Conglomerate’s most dangerous criminals are confined for life, orbits endlessly around a barren asteroid.

Life inside is even more bleak. Hailed as the Dread Queen, inmate Dresdemona “Dred” Devos controls one of Perdition’s six territories, bordered on both sides by would-be kings eager to challenge her claim. Keeping them at bay requires constant vigilance, as well as a steady influx of new recruits to replace the fallen. Survival is a constant battle, and death is the only escape.

Of the newest convicts, only one is worth Dred’s attention. The mercenary Jael, with his deadly gaze and attitude, may be the most dangerous criminal onboard. His combat skill could give her the edge she needs, if he doesn’t betray her first. Unfortunately, that’s what he does best. Winning Jael’s allegiance will be a challenge, but failure could be worse than death…

Perdition coverThis book intrigued me when I read the synopsis on Goodreads. A badass woman who basically becomes a mob boss on a prison ship? OK, sure, I’d give it a try. Turns out the story was better than the synopsis made it out to be. Dred is more than just a tough lady. She has a psychic ability that allows her to read a person’s intentions. Lets her know if they are lying. She can also see if they’ve committed horrible murders – which is what got her stuck on Perdition. Dred saw so much horror she became a vigilante, hunting down and killing men she knew did awful things. This ability helps her out on Perdition though by letting her see which of the prisoners are exceptionally dangerous, or trustworthy – at least as trustworthy as one can be on a prison ship. It also causes her to pick out Jael.

Beastly - 2010

In my head, Jael looked something like this. 

There’s quite a bit more to Jael than first meets the eye – and Jael is a very attractive killing machine. Genetically enhanced, Jael has incredibly fast healing in addition to his literally super-human fighting abilities. Though he’s killed many, he hasn’t actually committed a crime to land in Perdition – he’s just in storage until the government can figure out what to do with him. Dred knows he’s something special even before she knows about his healing abilities, and he joins her crew.

Together, Dred and Jael must defeat two rival kings who want Dred’s territory for their own. This is a challenge, not just because Dred is woefully out-manned, but also because she and Jael can’t figure out how to trust each other. Not having an easy life up to this point, they each expect betrayal from the other. They must overcome these fears and find a way to cooperate to defeat the other kings and stay as safe as they can in their circumstances.

The relationship between Dred and Jael grew and developed throughout the novel. It was interesting because neither one wanted to trust the other, rather than the typical novel in which one character spends the whole book convincing the other to trust them. And the relationship was well-balanced with the rest of the drama in the novel.

3 stars

Three stars out of 5 from me for this novel. It wasn’t particularly special, but I was invested in Dred and Jael. I’m not in a rush to get the next book in the series, but I would read it if I found it in a library somewhere.

Becoming Human by Eliza Green

becoming humanBecoming Human is a novel set in the future, the year 2163. Earth has become nearly uninhabitable – immensely overpopulated with toxic gases so strong they blot out the sun. In order for humanity to survive, they must travel into space, and hope to find a habitable planet. After struggling to find a suitable “replacement” Earth, the world’s top scientists develop a process for terra-forming, and thus create Exilon 5. Exilon 5 is everything Earth used to be, full of sunshine and life, including nature and animals. But as the people from Earth begin to transfer to Exilon 5, they discover they are not alone, and the indigenous people on the planet are not happy to have new neighbors.

The story is told from multiple perspectives. The major players are:

  • Bill Taggart. Bill is an investigator working for the World Government. He is on Exilon 5 officially to learn about the Indigene, and unofficially to discover what happened to his wife, who went missing on Exilon 5 and is presumed dead. Taggart is a fierce, cold-hearted character who has lost all sense of self with the loss of his wife. He is miserable and angry, with good reason.
  • Stephen. Stephen is an Indigene, one of the smartest and fastest, who is tasked by the Central Council to investigate what his people call the Surface Creatures who have moved in and are taking over Stephen’s planet. His hatred for the Surface Creatures runs deep, as he witnessed the deaths of his parents at their hands, but his commitment to finding out everything he can about them so they can be destroyed runs even deeper. It was a challenge to deal with POVs of two very angry characters. Their anger made sense, but for me it made some of their narration unappealing and was detrimental to the story. Stephen in particular could have used some more dimension and development.
  • Ben Watson. We meet Ben only briefly, but he is a narrator of the story. He is a young boy Stephen meets and befriends in order to learn about the Surface Creatures.
  • Laura O’Halloran. Laura works for the Earth Security Centre in Sydney. She is essentially a drone who files computer documents, and dreams of being transferred to Exilon 5 to get away from the horrors and exhaustion on Earth. I wanted to like Laura, but she was such a wet blanket, and she worried constantly. On one hand, I could emphasize because I worry constantly, haha. On the other hand, for goodness sake Laura, make a decision!
  • Galen Thompson. Galen worked as an Air and Space Controller, helping land spaceships and watch “weather” patterns in space so they could fly safely. Galen’s parents are paranoid conspiracy theorists, which is essentially the only reason Galen is important to the story.
  • Captain Jenny Waterson flies spaceships. She had no other relevant personality.
  • Daphne Gilchrist is a leader in the World Government. She is, essentially, a bitch obsessed with being the most powerful person in the room – or really, the world. She was obnoxious and mean, and I couldn’t stand her.

As you can see, that is a ton of POVs. And some of them were only pertinent for a few pages, and then disappeared never to be seen or heard from again. I was especially bothered by the two women, Laura and Gilchrist. Laura was a doormat. She grew a little by the end of the novel, but I wanted her to step up and be decisive, and she never quite got there. Gilchrist fulfilled every bad stereotype about a woman in power. Yes, OK, she was technically a villain. But I didn’t think she had to be quite so awful. So much sneering, plans to “punish” her inferiors, and general negativity. I got the point. She’s a bad person. I don’t think the author needed to get quite so carried away.

This was a tough novel for me to “grade” so to speak. The concept was cool. I was worried it would be preachy, and turn into one of those books that wants to teach readers a lesson about climate change or taking care of the planet, and I was pleased that was not the case. Obviously that message was present, but it wasn’t the purpose. I loved the idea of space travel, and humans moving to a new planet, along with shady government conspiracies. Unfortunately, there were places where the writing was less than stellar. It frustrates me to read a novel and think “I could do this better.”

I didn’t know this was a self-published book until I finished it. As an aspiring author, I have an enormous amount of respect for authors who self-publish. That also explains the moments of what I considered not fantastic writing. The book had an editor, but it just didn’t have quite the same polished final quality of books that go through a regular publisher. Though I don’t usually say this, I think the book could have been fifty pages longer, with more developed characters. While I didn’t love it, and I’m not racing out to get the next book, I am keeping book two, Altered Reality, on my To-Read list. I think Eliza Green has quite a bit of potential and am intrigued to see what she will do next.

2 and a half stars

Two and a half stars out of five. Not the best book I’ve ever read, but if you like science fiction, its a relatively easy read (compared to some sci-fi novels). The ending was great too. I wish it hadn’t taken so long to get there, but it was worth it, and while I knew there was going to be a twist, it wasn’t what I thought it would be. And finally, its always worthwhile to support independent authors who self-publish.

Once Bitten by Kalayna Price

Kita Nekai, on the run and the smallest of her shifter clan—a calico cat among lions and tigers—is being hunted. She was expected to accept her role as her father’s successor whether or not her cat was up to the task of leading the clan. She disagreed. Now she’s less than a step ahead of the hunters, bone-tired, cold, and living hand-to-mouth in the city of Haven. And that’s the high point of her day. She’s also drugged, “accidentally” turned into a vampire, and sentenced to death for recklessly creating a rogue shifter who tortures its human prey. She’s got seventy-two hours to find the rogue, evade a city full of hunters, prove she’s not responsible for the rogue, and keep the vampire council from killing her. All while sorting out an apprentice mage, a married ex-boyfriend shifter-hunter, and the vampire who made her.

Once Bitten coverAlright, its Sunday morning and I’m sleepy so I am borrowing the synopsis for Once Bitten by Kalayna Price from Goodreads, which is also the synopsis from the back of the book. I picked it up because I really enjoy Price’s Alex Craft series, and I loved the concept of a shifter that turns into a house cat. It was a good choice, because I really enjoyed the book.

Kita is a well-written, relate-able character, and I was completely invested in her story. Kita was both brave and cowardly – she was brave enough to leave the only home she ever knew and enter the completely unknown human world all by herself, but also cowardly because she did it to escape her responsibilities and run away from heartbreak. She had the guts to stand up to the judge who wanted to execute her, but the whole time she investigated the rogue shifter she planned to leave the friends who helped her as soon as possible. Kita wanted to help her friends, but not get attached to anyone. It was an interesting character trait – you rooted for Kita, but also hoped she would appreciate what was around her and make the right decision. I love characters who aren’t perfect, and Kita fit the bill. Plus she could turn into a calico cat!! Sure turning into a wolf or tiger is probably more impressive, but there’s something to be said for being able to transform into a small, adorable kitty. When Kita was turned into a vampire and lost her ability to shift (which I still hold out hope is temporary) I was genuinely sad and upset.

calico cat

Calico cats are so cute! 


The other major characters were Nathaniel, old vampire who “accidentally” turned Kita into a vampire and therefore became her master and protector; Bobby, another shifter and lifetime friend of Kita; and Gil, apprentice mage who is following Kita around so she can write a paper about her. They all try to help find the rogue shifter so Kita will not be executed. Nathaniel was the best of the group – he understood Kita best, and whether she liked it or not did what was best for her. He also had a fairly well-written history and his personality was well-developed and easy to understand. Bobby was a bit more shallow and never grew – no matter what, all he did was ask Kita to go back to Firth with him. He spent the novel threatening Nathaniel and attempting to fight over Kita. The male posturing got old very rapidly. Gil was a haughty mage who appeared to care more about her research and potential fame more than anyone’s life, although I suspect she will become more important in future novels.

Price made a unique world-building choice that I am dying to learn more about. Most shifters live in Firth, a place separate from the human world, which can only be accessed once a month during the full moon. Firth was mentioned quite a few times, but never exactly explained. It reminded me a bit of Faerie, connected to the human world but allowed the Fae race to be separate. I have never heard of a world like this for shifters before though. I really really hope Kita and the rest of the team get to travel to Firth at some point so we can learn more about it.

4 stars 02

Four stars for this book. It was a fun read and I’m looking forward to reading more of Kita and Nathaniel’s store. Price’s entire world-building was great. She used the Show Don’t Tell method, and she did is exceptionally well. We know this world has shifters who come from a separate world which is ruled by Elders. We know there are vampires and a Vampire Council. And apparently there are also mages and demons, though we know the least about them. There is so much to learn about this world, and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Twice Dead.


Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

sandman slim coverJames Stark has escaped Hell after 11 long years confined to its depths, fighting in the arena for the twisted amusement of Hell’s denizens. He’s back in Los Angeles, a hell in its own right, and he is *ahem* hell-bent (sorry, I had to) on getting revenge on the man who sent him to Hell in the first place.

I’m on the fence about whether or not I liked this book. Conceptually, it was good. Brand new, interesting system of magic, demons, angels, the battle between Heaven and Hell. The world building was definitely intriguing. But – and if you’ve ever read this blog, you probably know what’s coming – James Stark was a jerk. And it was not OK.

In my last review, I wrote about how Miriam Black in Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig was not a likable character, but that was fine because she wasn’t meant to be. I don’t think this was Kadrey’s intention with James Stark. I think the reader was supposed to believe that Stark turned out the way he did due to the horrors he endured in Hell. Perhaps we were supposed to be sympathetic. Except the way Stark acted didn’t inspire sympathy, for me it inspired annoyance. Sure I could believe being trapped in Hell for eleven years made him unwilling to trust and want his own way. I could buy that he didn’t want to work with the denizens of Heaven. But he didn’t listen to anyone, ever. Not even his friends. In fact, he went out of his way to be an ass towards his friends – and not for any sort of supposedly noble reason, like he wanted to protect them. Nope, he was just a jerk who decided no rules applied to him.

I think the problem with Stark was that we, as readers, didn’t know him well enough to get behind him acting this way. If, for example, this was the third book in the series, and we were totally invested in Stark and believed in him, it would have been fine that he flaunted the rules and did as he pleased. But we barely knew Stark, aside from the fact that he stole cars whenever he pleased and indirectly got his girlfriend killed. It was too soon for these sort of actions from the protagonist.

2 and a half stars

Two and a half stars for this book. Almost three. It was a surprisingly tough choice because I wanted to like this book. I did like the world building. But when you don’t like the person telling the story, its distracting and obviously makes the book less enjoyable. I don’t know if I’ll read the next book or not. Maybe once I get a little farther through the 900+ books on my To-Read list.

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

I wanted to like this book. I really did. And, OK, its not that I disliked the story. But dude. Miriam Black is NOT a likable character. Drove me a little nuts.

blackbirds wendig coverMiriam Black can see a person’s death when she touches them. Any sort of skin contact. Even a brush on the shoulder when moving through a crowd. She has spent the past several years taking advantage of this skill. She sees a person’s death, and if its soon enough, finds them at the moment of their death and robs them – just enough to stay alive and on the move, guilt free. After all, she doesn’t cause the deaths. But then she hitches a ride with a trucker named Louis. She shakes his hand, and discovers he dies in a month – and calls her name at the moment of his death. Miriam has never been able to prevent a death she has seen. But now, convinced she is the direct cause of Louis’s death, she knows she has to try.

I picked this up after I saw Chuck Wendig speak in Philly with Kevin Hearne and Fran Wilde. He was hilarious. I started following him on Twitter, where he is also hilarious and snarky. I expected his book to be snarky as well, and I was not disappointed. The story was great, but…

Let’s go back to me not liking Miriam. It’s not just that I personally didn’t like her. She wasn’t meant to be likable. I get that. She had a shitty life, and it turned her into an obnoxious, profane, gritty, heartless alcoholic. Well, not entirely heartless. She did want to save Louis. Most of the time – she waffled. I was invested in Miriam’s story, but not her. I wanted her to be less…annoying, I guess? I don’t know how to describe it exactly. I can’t say “nicer.” Blah, nice is such a terrible word. Kinder? More compassionate? Less gross? Less aggressive? Sigh. I just didn’t like her. I know theoretically you don’t have to like a character to like a book. But I do. And she got on my nerves.

As for the rest of the story, I liked it quite a bit. Even though I didn’t like Miriam, all the characters were fabulously written. Louis, the trucker, was such a genuinely nice guy. (I know, I know, I just said “nice” wasn’t a good word, but I swear it works here!) Ashley was a total douchebag who you hated almost the instant you met him, and then despised him once you got to know him. The creepy pseudo-cops gave me the actual chills. At the beginning of the novel, you couldn’t figure out how everything was going to tie together. But of course it did. And the snarky chapter titles were particularly fabulous.

I’m only giving this book 3 stars out of 5, because Miriam got on my nerves A LOT. But its aaaaaaaaaaaalmost a 4 out of 5.  And yeah, I’m definitely going to read the next Miriam Black book, Mockingbird. It looks interesting. I have a feeling the series is going to get better, and I think Miriam might grow on me.

Updraft by Fran Wilde

UpdraftKirit lives in a city made of bone high above the clouds. Her mother Ezarit is an accomplished trader, who flies between bone towers negotiating trades and delivering anything any of the other people need, including medicine. All Kirit has to do is pass her wing test in a few days, and she can join her. But everything is turned sideways three nights before the wing test when Kirit it sitting on her balcony and is attacked by a skymouth. Kirit screams at the skymouth’s approach, and it flees from her voice. This unusual and rare event is witnessed by a Singer named Wik, a protector of the city. Wik offers Kirit a place as a Singer, and when she refuses, he sabotages her wing test and she fails. In retaliation, Kirit and her best friend Nat fly to the Spire, the home of the Singers, a place forbidden to regular citizens. Kirit is caught and told in order to keep the rest of her family and friends alive, she must become a Singer. Desperate to keep her mother and friends safe, Kirit agrees, moves into the Spire and begins training to become a Singer, the very thing she used to hate. The longer she lives among them, the more secrets Kirit discovers the Singers are hiding, and the more determined she becomes to reveal the truth to everyone.

Updraft is the first book in Fran Wilde’s Bone Universe trilogy. It falls somewhere between YA and adult fantasy. The protagonist Kirit is around 17 years old (though Wilde never says specifically), which often indicates YA fiction, but the novel’s themes of secrecy, betrayal, and death are much more “Adult” in nature. The library where I borrowed the book files it with their adult fiction. I snagged the book after I saw Fran Wilde speak in Philly with Kevin Hearne and Chuck Wendig. She was fabulous, and I was intrigued by the novel’s concept of a people who live above the clouds and build their own wings to travel around their city.

Wilde falls firmly into the Show Don’t Tell camp of world building. I never felt like I completely, 100% understood how the world worked, with the bone towers and Spire and how everything connected – and it was perfect. Not knowing everything added to the suspense and drama of the novel, and allowed the reader to better relate to Kirit, since Kirit didn’t know everything about her city either. Finding out along with Kirit really drew the reader into the story – you share her frustrations, fears, and hopes as they happen, and are never sure whether or not things are going to work out. I loved the feeling of not knowing, experiencing genuine fear and concern for characters I liked, hatred for those I disliked, and never quite knowing which side I was on.

Kirit was a well-written character. She was a heroine, but she didn’t have any special powers beyond grit and determination. She stood by her beliefs, but listened to new thoughts and ideas and wasn’t afraid to adjust her worldview when she learned new things. She protected those she loved, and always did what she believed was right. Her actions and choices made sense, and were believable – the reader could buy into the idea that Kirit was a relatively normal young adult and capable of thinking what she thought and doing what she did. Yes, that sentence is rather vague, but this book had too many twists and turns for me to even hint at a spoiler.

Speaking of the twists and turns, there were almost too many. Perhaps it was just because I was so engrossed in the novel, and so desperately needed to know how everything worked out, that I read it in about a day and a half. The slow reveal of all the various relationships between characters certainly added to the suspense, but I did catch myself thinking at one point, “Oh Good Lord, not another betrayal!” It got a little over-whelming to keep track of everything, and who was on which side of the conflict. This was not overly detrimental to the novel though, and I probably wouldn’t have noticed as much if I hadn’t been fatiguing from reading for about 5 hours straight.

reading meme 05

Me, this morning. 

Finally, I must mention, there was no hint of a love triangle. No love story at all really. See, authors everywhere. You can write a successful, thought-provoking, honestly fantastic YA(ish) fantasy novel without a lovesick, tortured female protagonist. There’s a tiny, minuscule, barely worth mentioning possibility one could appear in a later novel. But I find that rather unlikely. There was no cliffhanger either! Are there unanswered questions? Sure. Of course I want to know what happens next – I’m completely invested in Kirit, her friends Nat and Wik, especially since by the end of the novel the City has changed quite a bit since the beginning. But the main plot lines wrapped up fairly neatly, and the ending was satisfying.

4 and a half stars

Fran Wilde’s Updraft receives  4.5 out of 5 stars from me and I highly recommend it to those who love high fantasy, an unusual world, and a realistic, believable heroine. The second book in the trilogy is called Cloudbound, and I’m looking forward to reading it as soon as possible so I can be ready for the release of Horizon, the final book in the trilogy, this September. Go out and enjoy it!

The Devious Dr. Jekyll by Viola Carr

The Devious Dr. Jekyll is the second book in Viola Carr’s Electric Empire series. I initially picked up the first book in this series, The Diabolical Miss Hyde, because I saw the cover in a bookstore and it looked really cool. The cover for this installment was equally awesome. As the title of the books suggest, they are a play on the story of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Main character Dr. Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of Henry Jekyll, and because Dr. Jekyll was using his infamous elixir when Eliza was, *ahem* conceived, Eliza has what you could call a split personality. Her “other half” so to speak is Lizzie Hyde.

**This review will contain some mild spoilers for the The Diabolical Miss Hyde.**

devious dr jekyll coverEliza is a well-respected female doctor who often helps the police solve their cases and who dates the dashingly handsome Captain Lafayette. Captain Lafayette works for the Royal Society, a group dedicated to wiping out everything even remotely supernatural in England. This should include Eliza, which makes their relationship a bit tricky – until Lizzie discovered Captain Lafayette has his own secret – he’s a werewolf. Eliza and Lafayette mutually decide to keep each other’s secrets, but their relationship remains complicated. Lizzie meanwhile is not just another personality. When Eliza drinks her elixir – or Lizzie breaks out on her own – her whole body changes, down to her hair color. She looks completely different, wears different sized dresses, and speaks with a different accent. Adding complication to Eliza’s relationship with Captain Lafayette is the small matter of Lizzie sleeping with him, and continuing to harbor feelings for him after he tells her he loves Eliza only and can’t be with her anymore. I’m not sure if this qualifies as a love triangle or not, haha.

These books are interesting reads for me, because most of the books I really like I enjoy because I can become emotionally invested in the characters. I don’t particularly like Eliza Jekyll or Lizzie Hyde. Eliza is too proper, and she makes some outrageously stupid decisions for a person smart enough to become a doctor. Lizzie is more crude than I can handle. The plot is good though. In this novel, Eliza and Captain Lafayette are searching for a murderer who is killing his victims using a horrifying ritual. I like steampunk novels, and I think Eliza’s talking mechanical dog is adorable and a nice touch by the author. So far, the books are fine.

Now here’s the part that really makes me want to read these novels: Viola Carr’s imagery is SPECTACULAR. I should have made notes of some specific examples, but of course I didn’t think of that at the time, and now the book is back at the library. The one moment I remember because it was so brilliant was Carr’s description of the sunlight as “gritty.” There was much more to the description of the scene than just this one word, but this stuck with me, because while it is not a word you generally associate with the sun, I understood exactly what she meant. Every single one of her descriptions is this perfect. It really takes her story writing to the next level, and it inspires me to make my own writing even better.

Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to fans of steampunk, the supernatural, and really brilliant imagery. The third book in the series, The Dastardly Miss Lizzie, was just published in April and I looking forward to reading it.