Warning: There are some spoilers!
I'm really enjoying this new genre that's popping up (Is it a new genre? it's probably not new at all and I'm just late to the game...) -- the "Oh hey, the video game I like is actually real" genre. I read Warcross earlier this year (really enjoyed it) and Otherworld plays into some of those same tropes as well.
Otherworld presents some intriguing ideas...what if your favorite MMORPG game (anybody for World of Warcraft?) was revamped to allow for VR headsets? What if the AI in the game becomes sentient? What constitutes "life"? I think these questions raised by Otherworld are the shining moments of the book and I wish more time was spent diving into them. The Children were a fascinating subset of characters that I feel we barely scratched the surface on. I think we will encounter them in future books...but I wish more time was spent fleshing out their dilemma and their origins.
If you've played any MMORPGs before you will probably appreciate the various realms within Otherworld. I chuckled at Mammon which translates to anyone who is interested in inventory management and wealth accumulation in game (*cough* me *cough*). The jungle realm is essentially one big PvP arena. And the list goes on. Fun little nods to those types of players who play MMORPGs.
The book is dragged down somewhat by typical young adult characters. We have the rebellious teenage boy who is just "misunderstood" by his out of touch family. We have the damsel in distress...but not too much distress...that the boy is trying to rescue. Evil parents - either through deliberate maliciousness or being out of touch - make regular appearances as well. The characters seem a bit flat in light of the Otherworld backdrop.
I had one big issue with the book's plotting (spoiler ahead!): We spend most of the book trying to find Kat...where has Kat gone...how do we meet her at the Glacier...where is Kat...etc... Then Simon plugs back in at one point and -BAM- there's Kat. She's just...there. I remember feeling really irritated when I read that. We just spent 2/3 of the book on a search for Kat and there's no reward for it. He plugs back in and she's just there whispering to him to wake up in Otherworld? How...anticlimactic. I wanted more from their reunion...more from Simon finally catching up with Kat. It felt like it kind of fizzled.
I was rather let down by the ending as well. I thought it was a solid build up with a decent plot (despite the flat characters) only to have a trite and forecasted young adult ending. I also think the story was designed to leave on a cliffhanger and anxious for the next book, but I did not really find it so. I re-read the last few paragraphs just trying to see if I missed the big cliffhanger...but didn't see anything indicating a cliffhanger. It almost ends like the end of a chapter rather than the end of the book.
This one is falls between a 3.0 and a 3.5 in my opinion. I originally rated it a 4 star read, but after more consideration I just find that the characters and the rather "meh" ending knocks it down a peg. I still really enjoyed the book and I think this series has potential - especially as we dive into the questions that the Otherworld raises. As the series moves forward I do hope that the main characters of the story become as multi-faceted as the AI characters who dwell in Otherworld
Hunter's claim by S.E. Smith
Meet Hunter -- an overly large, cat-humanoid-alien dude who is a warrior for his alien species (aka the Trivators) who have recently occupied Earth. Unfortunately, he and his friends (like Dagger and Razor) are really crappy warriors and they fail at just about every mission they go on. It's through one of these failed missions that Hunter is captured and it's up to scrappy, survivalist Jesse to rescue him from his captors.
As thanks (?) for rescuing him, Hunter takes Jesse as Amate (note that it's not as "a mate"...but as "Amate". Original, yes?) which bonds him to her for the rest of his life. He can't seek relief from anyone else...not even from himself (in a so-called "relief room")...except from her. Nice to know that he asked her if she even wanted to be rescued and bonded to him forever before he did it, eh? Oh wait...he didn't ask. He just claimed her as his own and then started walking around naked.
But wait...there's more, folks. Hunter and crew take Jesse and her two sisters (convenient that Hunter has two friends and Jesse has two sisters, isn't it?) to the Trivators' home world...which is pretty much the USA. But in space. At least it seems to be...sadly, not much worldbuilding is done to really set up the Trivators' home world. So we are left to assume it's pretty much like Earth...just with big cat-humanoids and a male-centric society. But good thing everybody speaks English! And good thing there's no culture-shock after being essentially abducted and plopped down in an alien world!
I could go on...but I shan't...just in case you want to read the story. There are a few plot points that I could spoil, so I shall refrain. It's a bad book. It's so bad that it might be entertaining if you are in the mood for a campy read.
It seems as though the Kindle edition wasn't proofed at all. Spelling errors and awkward sentences abound...
I'm definitely disappointed...I was in the mood for a fun "Alien Meets Human" book. Not sure what I got instead...
Divine by Mistake by P.C. cast
Oh...I so wanted to like this book. Diving by Mistake is my second foray into P.C. Cast's writing...and it's the second time I've had to put a P.C. Cast book down (the first book was Goddess of Spring).
It's not that I didn't like the story...I mean, check out the back cover blurb:
The most excitement teacher Shannon Parker expected on her summer vacation was a little shopping. But then her latest purchase--a vase with the Celtic goddess Epona on it--somehow switches her into the world of Partholon, where she's treated like a goddess. A very temperamental goddess... It seems that Shannon has stepped into another's role as the Goddess Incarnate of Epona. And while it has some very appealing moments--what woman doesn't like a little pampering now and then?--it also comes with a ritual marriage to a centaur and the threat of war against the evil Fomorians. Oh, and everyone disliking her because they think she's her double.
Somehow Shannon needs to figure out how to get back to Oklahoma without being killed, married to a horse or losing her mind...
I mean...sounds interesting, right? I thought so. Definitely not your run of the mill marriage-to-a-horse (turns out to be not as creepy as it sounds) romances. Plus, I've seen Cast's writing style compared to Anne Bishop's as well...and since Bishop is one of my favorites, I definitely wanted to check Cast out. Well, there are similarities between the two...namely the strong female lead (but Bishop writes stronger leads), sense of humor and fondness for animals. But Cast's book didn't catch me like Bishop's books do.
With this book and with the previous Cast book I tried to read...I just couldn't finish it. Not that the writing was painful and not that the plot was bad. In fact, I started this book reading at a furious pace because it was funny, clever and really interesting. Then it went from 80 mph to a standstill in about five pages flat. It's like the book was stuck in mud spinning its wheels. The switch from "I care about this character" to "yeah...whatever" happened almost as instantaneously as well. What's weird is that the same exact thing happened with Goddess of Spring as well.
I have a feeling that the story/writing/everything picks back up eventually (because there's a lot of plot out there that needs to be wrapped up)...but I just couldn't make myself wade through the mire to get there.
So...had to put this one down. I would say, though...if the synopsis looks interesting to you then definitely check it out because you may not find the middle part to be sloggish like I did. Maybe I just picked up her books at the wrong time? Even though I didn't finish this one...still giving it two stars because of how much I did enjoy that first bit.
Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward
I think I've realized that the back cover blurb (BCB) on the back of the Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB)books are only nominally descriptive. See, if we were to go by the BCB of this BDB book, we would expect a book dedicated to Vishous. And when a huge revelation about Vishous is discovered within the first fifty pages or so...you realize that yes Vishous needs an entire book to explore his background and progression within the main story arc.
As you read further, however, you realize that the BCB wasn't helpful at all. Yes, you do learn some more about Vishous. But an equal (if not more?) amount of time is spent on Phury and John. While I am looking forward to both of their books...this was a book about Vishous and I wanted to read about him. Instead, it seemed as though Vishous was relegated to the background for a lot of the book.
Because V seemed to be a "background character" at some points, his romance with Jane seemed about as deep as a parking lot puddle. And because the romance seemed contrived and based solely on lust (and, despite Jane's opinion otherwise, there may have been some Stockholm Syndrome at play here...), the big twist in their relationship at the end was kind of weird.
I don't mind that Ward tells a huge story in each of her books. And I understand that the books are going to feature all of the Brothers to some extent. I just wish that more time had been spent on V. Even compared to the earlier books...this installment seemed less focused and more of a filler novel.
And while I am looking forward to the next book which features Phury...I feel as though most of his story has already been told in Lover Unbound which makes me wonder if Phury's book will do the same as this one - focus on everyone but him.
The King by J.r. Ward
Available for purchase NOW.
Ok, so this one eeked through into the Weekly Newbie column. Just coming out this week, The King is J.R. Ward's latest installment in the extremely popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series.
Here's the Back Cover Blurb on this one (not really spoilery unless you haven't ready any of the BDB books...):
J.R. Ward's # 1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood continues as a royal bloodline is compromised by a grave threat to the throne.
Long live the King…
After turning his back on the throne for centuries, Wrath, son of Wrath, finally assumed his father’s mantle--with the help of his beloved mate. But the crown sets heavily on his head. As the war with the Lessening Society rages on, and the threat from the Band of Bastards truly hits home, he is forced to make choices that put everything--and everyone--at risk.
Beth Randall thought she knew what she was getting into when she mated the last pure blooded vampire on the planet: An easy ride was not it. But when she decides she wants a child, she’s unprepared for Wrath’s response--or the distance it creates between them.
The question is, will true love win out... or tortured legacy take over?
I picked this as the Weekly Newbie since I am currently immersed in Lover Unbound (the tale of Vishous - son of the Bloodletter) and am trying to catch up in this series. Obviously I have quite a long way to go as I am on book 5 and book 12 just came out...but I'm giving it a shot. It seems the general consensus is that readers are glad Ward is returning to the original BDB members. I'm not sure how it will be returning back to Wrath...are we coming completely back around now? Time to tackle generation number two? Not sure where Ward is taking this...but then again I am only on book five. Can't wait to...at some point...get to this one!
Whelp, it's been a pretty slow reading week. Ok, not really...but, I've been re-reading Anne Bishop's Written in Red since the new one in "The Others" series (Murder of Crows) just came out this Tuesday. While I wish Bishop would also revisit her "Black Jewels" series, her new urban fantasy series is setting up to be almost as great. Anyway...on to today's TBT post. Since the weather around here has been crazy these past few months (80+ degrees yesterday...but back down to the 40s today? Gotta be kidding me.(), this seemed like a fitting choice.
ill wind by Rachel Caine
Have you ever looked up at the sky (or shaken your fist at the Weather Channel) wondering what's up with the weather these days? Well, Rachel Caine gives you the explanation you were looking for: a select group of humans (called Wardens) who can control the various elements (like Weather, Fire, and Earth) are embroiled in a battle against themselves and Mother Nature as they try to regulate Nature's wrath upon the earth. Oh, and they harness the power of the aether (where they do their Warden-y stuff) with the help of captive Djinn, of course.
So, what happens when one Weather Warden, Joanne, discovers that she's been corrupted with a Demon Mark (which, as you may have guessed, is bad news for anyone let alone a Warden)? She seeks out the strongest Warden of them all - Lewis - who happens to be the only Warden who can harness all the elements, rather than just one. When her plans go awry, however, Jo stumbles across a mysterious hitchhiker named David and the two of them embark on a journey to not only save Jo from a certain death-by-demon-mark, but to also save the world.
Ok, so that's obviously a hugely generalized summary. I'm writing this review having read several books into the series and I don't want to give any future spoilers, so I will just stop there with the plot.
But, what a fun concept for a book/series. Caine does a great job with the world building...it comes across as the "real world" - especially since the average person doesn't realize that the Wardens are responsible for holding back Nature's wrath. Once she set up the general populace's ignorance, Caine was free to expand the Warden and the Djinn universe and she does so perfectly. From the aether to the Djinn to the crappy politics within the Warden's world, it comes across as just realistic enough to make it believable.
I found the Djinn concept to be really interesting as well. I'm glad Caine stayed away from the stereotypical genie (ie. Aladdin's genie or the like). These Djinn are more forbidding, more dangerous. Their enslavement to their Warden masters is an interesting element and puts a pall on the Wardens actions and will certainly be something Caine will address as the series progresses.
The writing style is a bit light and tad fluffy. If you are looking for an epic urban fantasy, this is probably not going to scratch that itch. This is pure escapist fiction and will probably be a quick read...but sometimes that is just the book you need.
Ever have a huge amount of books you've read, but haven't actually reviewed? Well, I do. I thought I'd try to do at least one per week...more if work gets boring. So, let's kick it off with one of the more interesting covers...
My life as a white trash zombie by Diana Rowland
I really like the back cover blurb for this book, so here it is:
"Angel Crawford is a loser.
Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she's a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who's been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.
That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in a horrible car crash, but she doesn't have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there's a job waiting for her at the parish morgue -- and that's an offer she doesn't dare refuse.
Before she knows it she's dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addition: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey -- just when she's hungriest!
Angel's going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn't, she's dead meat.
This was such a fun, fun read! This book has some fun cover art - after seeing the cover and reading the back blurb, you know you are in for a treat. Is it funny? Well, I guess that depends on your sense of humor. Obviously, with a protagonist who eats brains like she used to pop pills, the humor is going to be very dark. And a lot of the dark humor was (brain?) sandwiched or included in some pretty gross (brain?) matter. With a lead character who throws out lines like: "Why did I have the urge to grab a handful of that pink and grey mass and shove it into my mouth like movie popcorn?" you know you are in for a treat. Well, I think so at any rate. If you don't have a dark sense of humor and/or if you get pretty queasy when it comes to some graphic descriptions of brains/rot/etc...well, then you may want to pass.
If you are up for the challenge, however, you may find (like I did) that the book featured a fun, light mystery (who's the serial killer and why is he/she taking all the heads and depriving Angel of her yummy brains?) with a touch of zombified romance. White Trash Zombie was a lot of fun - largely because it's different than the bulk of its genre. I didn't feel like I was reading the same story with different characters...this story felt fresh and fun.
Oh, and I read it on the pool deck of a cruise ship with one (or two?) mojitos in hand so that may have contributed to my enjoyment of it as well.
Still...whether or not you have a mojito in your mouth and Caribbean music in the background, check this one out. It's an undead gem.
Let's kill two birds with one stone here...
The Darkest Night and The Darkest Kiss by Gena Showalter
The Darkest Night and The Darkest Kiss (books one and two, respectively) kick off Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld paranormal romance series. This series has been on my radar for a while and has been recommended to me several times since I do enjoy a good paranormal romance. It seems as though a lot of people compare this series to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward. While it has it's similarities, the BDB series is, in my opinion, immensely better.
I'll be honest - the series does have an interesting premise. There are several Lords of the Underworld - it seems as though most, if not all, of the Lords were involved in the opening of Pandora's Box back in the day. As a punishment for unleashing Pandora's evils out on the world, each Lord of the Underworld is cursed to carry one of the evils/demons that had previously been living within Pandora's Box. As is the thing with these kinds of series, the men have had to endure the curses for centuries, but all seem to find love and/or redemption around the same time.
The Darkest Night introduces us to Maddox, cursed to carry the demon of Violence, and to Ashlyn, a human woman with a penchant for hearing voices. Ashlyn seeks out the Lords in an attempt to try and stop the voices in her head. She stumbles upon Maddox who initially thinks she is Bait (humans who are used for...well...bait by the Lords' enemies - the Hunters) while he is out seeking Hunters that are trespassing on the grounds. The two team up to fight the powers that be and...hopefully this shouldn't come as a spoilery surprise...they fall in lust (er, love?) and the plot moves on.
The Darkest Kiss then moves on to Lucien who is cursed to carry the demon of Death. This second installment starts out rather abruptly (and, in my honest opinion, quite awfully) with Anya (the goddess of Anarchy...a "minor" goddess in the Pantheon, but don't tell her that apparently) stalking Lucien in a club while the other Lords (or maybe it was just Paris, the Lord saddled with the demon of Promiscuity? I can't remember) have sex on the dance floor with women. Anya has her own issues as the daughter of a promiscuous daughter and the product of an affair. Anya is cursed by Themis to an unfulfilled, unhappy love life because of the sins of her mother. Anya has angered the Titan god Cronus...so much so that Cronus has ordered Lucien to kill Anya. So begins the cat and mouse game that's peppered with lust (er, love? Maybe?).
I just didn't like these. I didn't really enjoy the first book and I only gave the second one a whirl because it came up as the book of the month in a bookclub I enjoy. In both books, the characters are flat, the writing boring and somewhat awkward, and the love just isn't there. Oh, there's lust aplenty. But, a "lust story" holds no appeal for me. I wonder if the series doesn't get better as the author matures in her writing style and as the characters grow (and I don't know enough of Showalter to know whether or not these were written early on in her career or not).
I just don't know if I will continue on in the series to find out if they get better.
Jane Austen Ruined my life by Beth Pattillo
I didn't know whether to go 2 gnomes or 3 gnomeson this one. It's light, fluffy chick-lit down to its last sentence. I picked it up because I found the premise interesting -- meet Emma, a newly divorced English professor who sets off to London to (re)discover herself and try to restore her academic career with the discovery of a lifetime - Jane Austen's lost letters guarded by the secretive Formidables.
The story started out alright...a little cliche, but alright. But then it just started to spin its wheels and not go any further. Emma is a pretty annoying lead character (I hesitate to even call her a 'heroine')...I think Patillo was trying to present her as a flawed character (much like Austen's characters were flawed0, but Emma just comes across as whiny and incapable of doing anything.
I breezed through the last fifth of the book and I'm glad that I didn't spend much more time on the story. I won't give any spoilers, but I was highly dissatisfied with the ending. On one hand, I understand why the ending was as it was...but on the other hand, I wish it was more satisfying. I really can't go into more detail without giving a spoiler. I think there could have been ways the author could have more solidly hinted at a satisfying ending...be it through a line or two of dialogue or through the Epilogue. As it stands, I finished the book and was left with a general feeling of "So...what happened??"
I was also amused by the portrayal of academia and professors. As someone who has been in graduate school, I find it extremely hard to believe that a TA claiming their supervisor, a full Professor employed by the university, has committed plagiarism would be enough to get Emma kicked off the faculty. Even with her star, tenured ex-husband backing up the TA...I just don't see the university going "Get thee hence, plagiarist!" quite that easily. There are SO so many politics involved in higher education (at least in my experience) that this would not have been a quick or an easy decision for the university unless Emma had done something else to ruffle the university's or the faculty's feathers.
So, I will give this one three stars because I guess I liked it. And I did finish it. I just wish the story had lived to its potential.