Review: Retrograde

RetrogradeRetrograde
Author: Peter Cawdron
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre/Themes: Science Fiction
Release Date: September 12th, 2017
Format: ARC

 

 

Summary

Mankind has long dreamed of reaching out to live on other planets, and with the establishment of the Mars Endeavour colony, that dream has become reality. The fledgling colony consists of 120 scientists, astronauts, medical staff, and engineers. Buried deep underground, they’re protected from the harsh radiation that sterilizes the surface of the planet. The colony is prepared for every eventuality except one—what happens when disaster strikes Earth?

Review

After reading Andy Weir’s The Martian, I’ve found myself really interested in science fiction novels that take place on other planets. When I heard there was another book about colonizers on Mars, I was intrigued and eager to read this book. While this book is nothing like The Martian, it does have similar themes since both books are about survival. The most interesting aspect about this novel is that there are are different groups of colonizers on Mars, all from different regions around the world. I felt like it would be really interesting to read about how different cultures would react to working together and colonizing Mars.

I went into this book expecting to read about the conflict between different groups of people. The first half of the book was such an exciting mystery because nobody knew exactly what was going on back on Earth or what would happen to them on Mars, and the narrator, Liz, was attempting to put the pieces into place while dealing with the hostilities of the other countries. Even though every person in the colony was supposed to be furthering the advances of science and space travel, the conflict between different countries was playing a huge part in the book’s events. However, there was a twist that occurred halfway through the novel that completely changed the story and I didn’t like it very much. The problem was that it seemed like a cop out. The story stopped being about the characters and their disputes and became about something else. Just because I didn’t like this turn doesn’t mean that others won’t or that it was a bad development. It just wasn’t what I was expecting to read.

The characterization was well-done, and I understood the personalities and the motivations of all the different characters. I also appreciated how diverse the crew were. I didn’t always think that Liz’s was the strongest point of view and I would have loved it if the book were longer and switched between the perspectives of different characters. It would have been a bonus to understand the others a little more, as well as how they were reacting to the situation both on Mars and on Earth.

This book is extremely well-researched and really fast-paced. While the narration is hit or miss, and it’s shorter than I would have liked, it’s a thrilling read, and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in science fiction or Mars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

 

 

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Review: Here and Gone

Here and GoneHere and Gone
Author: Haylen Beck
Publisher: Crown
Genre/Themes: Thriller
Release Date: June 20th, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities. It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Review

Here and Gone has the kind of plot that immediately grabs me. I love thrillers because I like how fast-paced and adventurous they are. I never go into a thriller expecting amazing writing, but I do expect a good plot and decent characterization. Fortunately, I did get that from this book.

The plot was extremely fast-paced and kept me turning the pages, and the story was interesting and unique enough to keep me reading. A lot of the times, the book felt very cinematic, and I could see this book as a movie without any problems. The plot is very suspenseful and as the story unfolds, it gets a lot darker.

I also thought the characters were all really impressive. The story switches between the perspectives of quite a few characters, and they were all well-written. Their voices felt different and I was impressed with how dynamic they all were. My only qualm was that Audra’s backstory was really cliched. I think women with her backstory have been seen in thriller novels over and over again. My favourite character was Danny, and I wish there had been more chapters from his perspective.

I enjoyed the book’s writing style, but there was nothing literary or very impressive with the writing since this was a plot focused novel. However, this was a very enjoyable read and I recommend it to fans of thrillers.

I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Review: Skitter

Skitter (The Hatching #2)Skitter
Author: Ezekiel Boone
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Genre/Themes: Horror, Adventure
Release Date: April 25th, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

Tens of millions of people around the world are dead. Half of China is a nuclear wasteland. Mysterious flesh-eating spiders are marching through Los Angeles, Oslo, Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, and countless other cities. According to scientist Melanie Gruyer, however, the spider situation seems to be looking up. Yet in Japan, a giant, truck-sized, glowing egg sack gives a shocking preview of what is to come, even as survivors in Los Angeles panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are trying to invent a spider super weapon, but it’s not clear if it’s too late, because President Stephanie Pilgrim has been forced to enact the plan of last resort: The Spanish Protocol. America, you are on your own.

Review

Skitter is the second book in The Hatching trilogy. I read the first book, The Hatchinglast year and enjoyed it a lot. There isn’t a lot I can say about this book without giving the plot away, but I still found the sequel to be an entertaining read.

Just like the previous book, I found that the whole story was extremely cinematic. It’s written in the same style as the previous novel – jumping between different groups of characters to show how they are all handling the spider invasion. In this novel, we see a few of these groups link up and I’m really looking forward to seeing how each group will be responsible for stopping the spiders in the final book.

I still really liked the characters, and while the female characters were still written in a slightly offensive manner, it was way more toned down than the previous novel. My biggest complaint in The Hatching were the female portrayals, but it wasn’t as overtly misogynistic in this bookThere were a few more characters introduced, and I think they will be helping in some interesting ways, but I never found myself attached to any of them as much as I was to the original cast of people introduced in the first novel. There weren’t a lot of chapters that included the original cast, and I really wished I could have read more about them.

However, a major problem I had with this novel was that a lot of it just seemed to be filler. There were people introduced that died in the same chapter, which was fine, but it happened multiple times. No huge breakthroughs were really made, there was not much progress forward. I feel like this didn’t need to be a trilogy, it could have been compressed down into a duology.

Of course, I will be reading the final book in the series because I really want to know how everything will be resolved. These novels are fun and complete page-turners. It’s escapism at its best. I can’t wait until the final book is released!

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Review: The Wolf Road – Beth Lewis

The Wolf RoadSince the Damn Stupid turned the clock back on civilization by centuries, the world has been a harsher place. But Elka has learned everything she needs to survive from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her in when she was just seven years old.

So when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

This is the second novel in the space of a few weeks that I’ve read with the same premise. Like the book I recently reviewed, A Desolate Splendor, this is a post-apocalyptic novel that’s written in the “hick-speak” that I found completely off-putting, but that’s where the similarities stop.

I was expecting a lot from this novel because the premise sounded so intriguing. I love the idea of a young woman forced to confront all of her realities and go on a grand adventure to figure out the truth about her life. While the plot of this book was adventurous and exciting, I couldn’t enjoy this novel at all due to Elka’s terrible style of speaking and her personality. I understand the purpose of Elka’s way of talking since she was supposed to be poorly educated, but the hick-speak fully repelled me. I’ve read Winter’s Bone as well, and while it didn’t annoy me at all in that novel, it really did in this one. It was just too overdone. This novel also has my least favourite literary device where at the end of each chapter, the narrator foreshadows what will happen next. It completely takes me out of the story.

I also had a hard time warming to Elka. In some ways, she was so knowledgeable, tough, brave, smart, and resourceful, and in other ways, she was unbelievably naive. I only had sympathy for Elka in one scene, and her personality just turned me off the majority of the time. I will admit that all of the characters were well-developed, even the secondary characters. I loved Magistrate Lyon, she was by the far the character I was interested in the most. I’d love to read a novel about her and her experiences, but Elka as a main character didn’t do anything for me.

The one thing I will admit to really liking in this book was the strong female friendship. While Elka and her friend (I won’t mention anything about her due to spoilers) had secrets from each other, the way they supported each other and worked together even while being from different backgrounds was really rewarding to read. I loved the way their friendship was written and developed. It was the one thing that redeemed this book for me.

As things stand, I’m in the minority with my opinions about this novel. Most people who have read it have enjoyed it a lot, and I can understand why. It’s full of action, it has a capable and strong protagonist, and a really solid cast of supporting characters. Personally, I just didn’t connect with this novel, but I recommend anyone who is interested in this book to check it out.

I received this novel from Blogging For Books and Netgalley. This has affected my opinions in no way.

Review: Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle, #1) In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic — the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.

Revenge.

This is one of my favourite books of the year. I was so hooked on this story that I found it almost impossible to stop reading. It was inventive, interesting, and a very creative story. I’ve never read anything quite like this. I’m not really sure whether this book is marketed as an adult or young adult fantasy novel, but there’s a lot of explicit sex and a lot of graphic violence. Honestly, it’s been a really long time since I’ve read such an explicit and graphic novel, but I loved every moment of it.

Mia Corvere is one of those main characters you wish you knew in real life. She’s so clever and interesting, and such a badass, but she has her flaws. Even though her main desire is revenge for her family and even though she’s willing to do anything to achieve her goals, there’s still a part of her that wants to retain her humanity. This internal conflict makes her such a sympathetic main character. She’s not golden-hearted, and she can be quite brutal and uncompromising at times, but due to her ability to remain true to her beliefs, she’s complex and dynamic. Personally, I find characters like Mia the most interesting to read about. She’s both tough and vulnerable, and it’s the juxtaposition of this young orphan girl among the most dangerous killers in the world that drives this book. Even though Mia can fit in among the assassins really easily, she’s not fully like them. I think it’ll be extremely exciting to see how her character grows and which side of her wins in the two remaining books in this trilogy.

Another great aspect of this book are the relationships. There are so many relationships Mia developed that I thought were written so well. Her romantic relationship was really complex and multilayered. Mia also had a paternal relationship which was strangely out of place for a book about lone wolf assassins, but really worked well. It was riveting to watch Mia struggle with becoming friends with her fellow assassins in training while competing against them. I also loved the depiction of all the secondary characters in this book. They were all so intriguing and I wanted to know more about each of them. Even when there were characters you were supposed to hate, I still wanted more of them.

The actual plot of the novel starts off slowly with a lot of world-building and detailed descriptions,  but once the story starts, it’s fast paced and completely engrossing. There were so many things I didn’t see coming, which is really rare for me.

The one problem I had with this book (that many other reviewers have also mentioned) was the writing style. It was really hard to adjust to the overwrought metaphors and purple prose. There were times I actually cringed while reading some of the ridiculous metaphors. I also didn’t like the use of the footnotes to add history about the world, even if some of the footnotes made me laugh out loud. I just thought they were out of place for this sort of novel.

Overall, this book was my fourth 5 star read of the year. It’s so richly imagined with such great character development, and such a compelling plot and main character. If you’re a fan of fantasy novels with strong, resilient main characters, I highly recommend this book.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my review in any way.

 

Review: The Hatching – Ezekiel Boone

The Hatching: A Novel An astonishingly inventive and terrifying debut novel about the emergence of an ancient species, dormant for over a thousand years, and now on the march.

Deep in the jungle of Peru, where so much remains unknown, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.

The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake.

Boy oh boy, do I hate spiders. I’ve had really bad experiences with them (think getting bit, getting a staph infection, and then getting put on antibiotics for a week). This book was pretty much guaranteed to freak me out, but I wanted to give it a shot anyway because I’ve never read a book about man-eating spiders before. I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

This book isn’t really a horror novel. It’s more of an adventure story. It reminded me a lot of the movies where aliens or zombies or parasites attack and a bunch of different groups of people have to band together to solve the crisis. This book is written a lot like a movie and it cuts between different characters who are all dealing with the aftermath of the spiders.

Since the book is written in the style of a movie, the writing is entertaining, but a little simplistic. It’s not poetic or riveting, and there’s a little bit of a disconnect between the reader and all of the characters due to the writing style. Sometimes, it’s hard to get invested in the characters because as soon as we start to read about them, the story skips to a new group of people. Overall, the format of the novel is a plus for the book and I really liked it. It’s interesting to see how each group of people is impacted by the spiders and I know all of the people are going to come together in a rewarding way.

There were both good and bad parts about this novel’s characters. In a lot of ways, this book is really progressive. There’s a female president of the United States and one of the people responsible for figuring out the origins of the spiders is a female entomologist. There are also people of colour in positions of power, and a gay couple that I feel is going to play an important role in the future.

However, the women are mostly portrayed as adulterers or cougars, which I find irritating. Almost all of the characters are divorced and of course, the main male FBI officer has a complex relationship with his ex-wife, her new husband, and his daughter. This book does fall into the trap of a lot of cliches that occur in adventure movies. It’s not necessarily a bad thing and it didn’t bother me while I was reading the book, but it could be troublesome for other people.

I actually really enjoyed the plot of the novel. There are some gruesome and disturbing scenes relating to the spiders, but not nearly as bad as some other horror novels I’ve read. I always found myself really eager to continue reading because I wanted to know the story behind the spiders and what was going to happen next.

This novel is the start to a trilogy, and it was a really intriguing first novel because it managed to tease a lot for further books while still having a satisfying conclusion. It’s a hard balance to have. The Hatching is the perfect blend of intrigue, suspense, and horror.

Ezekiel Boone has written a really strong start to a series. I’m so eager to read the second book!

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my review in any way.

#37: A Picker Mystery – Scott Soloff Review

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#37
Scott Soloff

Antique dealer Picker finds himself stranded in New York City after being knocked unconscious ninety miles away from home. He spends his day buying and selling valuable antiques until he discovers that his old friend Anthony ‘Doo Wop’ DeAngelo is dead.

Doo Wop is a world class forger well known for his copies of famous artists. After completing his masterpiece, Anthony is found murdered in his studio. His latest creation is missing.

An accomplished antiques dealer, Picker is drawn into the world of duplicity, deceit and murder while being pursued by multiple sets of bad guys and various levels of law enforcement. Uncle Moe, girlfriend Penny Lane, his trusty German Shepherd, the long lost half brother and his boyhood friends assist Picker in unraveling an international conspiracy while trying to stay alive.

Simultaneously you’ll discover the forces that occurred in the previous generation that impact Picker’s life in the present. Find out how his parents met and fell in love; the discovery of his half-brother and the mysterious Frenchman that may be Picker’s greatest foe or possibly his most powerful ally.

Every once in a while, I come across a protagonist that makes me wish I knew them in real life. Picker is definitely one such character.  Picker is such an interesting, astute, and unpredictable antihero, but he’s very likeable. He’s sarcastic and irreverent, but I still wanted to be best friends with him.

I absolutely loved this book.  All of the characters were so colourful and unique and they really made this novel as great as it was.  It was also enjoyable to learn about antiques throughout the novel.  Antiquing is something I’ve never been interested in before, but the plot revolving around art and history in combination with antiques was a genius idea.

The plot was entertaining and involving and draws the reader into Picker’s world effortlessly. Even though there are some elements of the unbelievable in it and the plot does get a little convoluted at times, the book comes together nicely in the final act and I was really satisfied with its resolution. However, it did take a little time to adjust to the format of the chapters with one chapter taking place in the present and one in the past. Luckily, it does not detract from the book at all.

I give this book four and a half stars. It could be a five star book except for the minor spelling and grammar mistakes. One pass with an editor would make this novel incredible, but even as it is, it’s highly recommended.  Scott Soloff has written a gem of a novel with an extraordinary protagonist, intriguing characters and an engaging plot. I can’t wait to read the next Picker mystery!