The Immundus by Christina Enquist

Summary

Would you sacrifice your humanity to save mankind?

IT’S THE YEAR 2828, and Domus is the last remaining country. Divided into twelve walled cities known as genuses, Domus spans what’s known as the purist lands—lands unaffected by the genetic modifications that killed all other species of mammals. But outside the walls of each genus the Immundus threaten the welfare of those within. From a young age, all citizens of Domus are trained for combat against these intruders.

At sixteen, Nia Luna knows little of the Immundus, except for the citywide alarms that
ring any time an Immundus nears the genus walls. What she does know is that her own species is dying—their numbers dwindling as a mysterious disease called allagine kills
many before their eleventh birthday. The same disease that ravaged her family when it took her sister.

When Nia is recruited into Genesis, a research company pioneering the path to a cure, she knows that her dream to find a cure for allagine is finally within her grasp. But within weeks of starting at Genesis, Nia witnesses something she shouldn’t have—something that changes everything. As she sets down a dangerous path that uncovers national secrets, Nia will have to decide not only what kind of person she wants to
be but also how far she’s willing to go to save humanity.

Characters

Nia is a somewhat normal teenager at first. Just about to finish the year 2828’s version of high school and start her apprenticeship. Although she is only 16 when the book starts, which was important to keep in mind because she sometimes feels quite a bit older than 16, she still had that teenage feel. I would say Nia really didn’t start to shine until her convictions came into place and her moral compass tested. The relationship between her and Eric. Although it was sweet and I liked Eric, it wasn’t until later that he became more of a three dimensional character.

Plot

This story is nothing new – think Pocahontas or Avatar with a Sci-Fi spin to it. That is what this book reminded me of and it was surprisingly good! Although the initial plot was predictable because the author hints at what the Immundus really are right up until they big reveal (thankfully you don’t have to wait long) but the dynamic the story takes is what makes it so good. It is a character torn between a bunch of different directions that she could go and having the conviction to stay true to who she is.

There was also the aspect of science and where the line exists. How far is too far in the name of science? A dialogue that is fleshed out and the author seems to take a stance through Nia. Write what you know – and it showed.

Overall

Except for one confusing scene the rest was well written and easy to follow. The world and history was sometimes a bit of an info dump but it was all very interesting and engaging so it hardly interrupted the flow of the story. This is definitely a strength of the book because after getting over the slightly slow start, I just flew through this book. I also felt like the author did their homework, where the ideas behind the collapse of Earth and the changes all seemed realistic and not too far fetched. Overall an gripping read that I’m curious to see the other side of the coin in future books!

Rating

4 Stars

If you like teen novels and sci-fi this is a great read! Quick, easy to read, and just as easy to enjoy.

This is a voluntary review.

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White Clay by Dora Ilieva

Summary

After a horrific car crash which kills her aunt and uncle, Kossara discovers that she has a brother! Tormented by questions, she sets out to find the truth about her family. The search leads her to a secret much bigger than her personal problems. In a race against time, she struggles to decipher the instructions left by her father. Will she be able to carry out the task which has been entrusted to her or will the blind seer’s terrible prophecy come true?

Characters

I liked Kossara. She can be a little fool-hearty but given the circumstances I don’t blame her. Some of the supporting characters are very vivid while others just feel washed out and plain. Her grandfather is a very vivid and nasty character. Andre is one of those fence people, I don’t know how I feel about him and he doesn’t know which path to take. Don’t worry it turns out well. Toughest part of this book was the stilted conversations and the POV shifts. There was a narrative feel with lots of head hoping between characters with no clear transition. I loved the flashbacks with the Doctor and Venera.

Plot

At first I was just somewhat interested but I quickly was sucked in. I just had to know where it was going and how all the pieces fit together. That was as important as how the present mattered so much to the past. I cannot write anything but Kossara is a very resourceful woman who I really loved following around on her adventures.

There is a romance aspect near the end but it is super flat and lackluster. I’m hoping it has long reaching effects and that there is more meaning to it, but as it was not very exciting. I also felt the supernatural aspect was a little convenient as well – the blind seer – but since I was warned of it in the blurb it wasn’t as strange as it could have been.

Overall

I really liked this plot. It had this zigzag feel that the past having impact on the present. I felt a few times that this book was as much about what was said as what wasn’t. A few times you had to take leaps of faith with where the author was going, and fill in context or even movement of characters. It wasn’t as distracting as the POV switching but far warning you’ll have to fill in some gaps. Perhaps the gaps are filled in the first two books? Although I do feel like this book can mostly standalone.

I liked the nice little twist at the end. Well one of the two twists, the first one was very abrupt and more than a little disappointing but I applaud the author for doing the twist near the end, just when you think it is all over, I didn’t see it coming. I wondered if it would happen but thought it wouldn’t happen yet. Nice surprise! I do love a good twist. Not to mention the core idea behind the story – the subtle meaning behind the title and what the whole point was. Very thought provoking.

Rating

3.5 (Rounded up and down)

I was super torn on this book – I liked it so that’s what I’m going to mark on each. The plot was such so catching and I was quickly sucked in. However, with every POV shift and shaky dialogue I was shook out of my revery. WIth a few fixes this could easily be a solid 4 star book.

This is a voluntary review.

The Mindruler by Steve Pillinger

Summary

A student, a lecturer, a web designer, a retired teacher: four unlikely strangers suddenly find themselves in an unknown country on an unknown world, their ears assaulted by the clash of swords on armour and the whizz of arrows. Caught up in a mediaeval battle, Steve, Gil, Lannie and Denise are rescued by the losing side and hustled to the dubious safety of a basement in a burnt-out castle.

Here they learn that their hosts–people not unlike themselves–are the only survivors of a rebellion against the vicious regime of Mindruler Shambor dom Beldet and his country-wide network of Mindbenders. These brutal overlords have mastered telepathy to the point where they can invade people’s thoughts and control their lives. Their eyes and ears are everywhere.

But in the last free community in the castle basement, the new arrivals are hailed as the long-awaited “Restorers of the Way”–the “strangers and loners” of prophecy, who will overthrow Shambor and bring peace and freedom to the tormented land of DUrion. The foreigners find this idea ludicrous. How can they, four ordinary people, pose as revolutionaries in a country they don’t even know?

Captured, enslaved, barely escaping, betrayed by one of their own, they are pursued across the country from one precarious refuge to the next by a tyrant bent on their destruction. En route they find friends and helpers in unexpected places, along with other powerful resources–resources the tyrant cannot control.

Even so, how can they succeed against his all-pervasive network of mentally-controlled slaves? Can the God they call upon overcome even the Mindruler’s unimaginable powers? Are they truly the long-awaited Restorers, who will end his tyranny and set the suffering people of DUrion free?

Characters

I didn’t connect with any of these dull characters…until the novel was nearly over. I did like Denise at that point, there was something comforting about her and she is a very sweet lady. Hands down favorite character was Gwargif – he is such a cool creature! Mostly they felt like puppets. The one thing that was done well was the slow transition from the English names to the Durion names. I was easily able to associate the same person even though their name had changed.

Something that really irked me is once the author seemed to decide secondary characters were of no further use to his plot, he’d dispose of them. It made everyone who wasn’t a main character feel expendable. I felt like they became devices to show the ‘bad guys’ brutality.

Plot

This book was painfully predictable. I predicted multiple plot points in the first 20% and all of them turned out to be right. This was an overtly christian novel. The fantasy aspect was like a thin layer of jelly on a piece of bread. Sure you can say it has jelly but honestly it is mostly bread. It would be no different if a fantasy book was heavily political or a social issue. In this cases the focus was religion and that is what made it difficult so swallow. For those who are very religious you may like this – for me it was scripture with a thin layer of fantasy. I would like enjoyed this more if it wasn’t so in my face about it (like Narnia).

If this book would have just had one twist or turn that I didn’t see coming I would have enjoyed it more but since it is part of a series so far everything I’ve guessed came true and that made it very boring. It was worse because the characters felt two dimensional. I was also put off by the repetitive use of strange words like copse and in the first chapter bracken.

Overall

I struggled through this book. I didn’t even realize it was a christian book at first, but by 15% I had almost no doubt. The writing felt excessively wordy in more than once place (for example the long summary…). I also felt like some scenes weren’t very plot or character driven but just a device so that the author could make a point—which usually was very preachy. Also there were some really disruptive flashbacks. There is a bit of a cliffhanger at the end.

What was really cool was the language. I was impressed by the way it was woven in. It was masterfully done. I also thought the author did an amazing job of researching historical uses – like sanding wet ink. It was scatter throughout that gave an excellent feel for the setting and era.

My biggest issue with this book was the subtle way the ‘lightists’ were always right (aka the ‘good religion’) and never brutal and the ‘cultists’ were terrible all the time. It was such a wide gap that it felt like the author was demanding you like the lightists.  The only redemption was to ‘see the light.’ Some were more subtle like the cultists wore dull clothing while lightists wore very colorful clothing.

Rating

2 stars

I didn’t like it. Uninteresting characters, predictable plot, and heavy handedness of the novel made it difficult to enjoy. Not to mention it was like a bible story with a fantasy world superimposed over top of it. Those who like super religious tones will like or those interested in biblical history may also enjoy.

This is a voluntary review.

The Gnosis Machine by Theodore Koukouvitis

Summary

An ambitious professor bets his life on a bid to abolish uncertainty, but when an entropic alien stresses the Machine’s computing power to its absolute limit, he faces an impossible dilemma as everything begins crumbling around him.
A grizzled war veteran comes to the Machine to fade away. His hopes for a quiet retirement are shattered when his ship implodes, stranding everyone on the Machine, and he finds love at the edge of the half-finished artificial planetoid.
A homesick science graduate becomes the unlikely hero when he saves a man from predetermined suicide — but he must then master gravity in a desperate attempt to save a thousand more people, including three cyborg madammes of excellent pedigree.
A fifty-year-old widow in an ageless body tries to escape the horror of her husband’s death only to find his charred remains 40,000 light-years from where he died. As chaos erupts and more people attempt to kill themselves on the Machine, she becomes the reluctant leader of the desperate castaways as they all clash in the battle between entropy and determinism.
The Gnosis Machine is built to predict everything, but in the end, will it be able to foresee — and prevent — its own fate?
Characters

There are a myriad of characters in the book. Fair warning I did not like the Professor one wit. The man was such a Machiavellian to his core with ideals of grandeur and an arrogance that is similar to John Hammond in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park without the visionary feel. Thankfully he is one among many character, including the spontaneous and ambitious Douglas Morgan and budding scientist Jason. My favorite characters and interactions by far are those that involve Sunny (Douglas’s adoptive daughter) and the righteous Captain. I also very much liked Maribella. She had a backbone and a tragic story, but she had her head on right…can’t say that for all the other characters. And the spontaneous alien – I won’t say much there for fear I’ll give too much away on the shape shifting alien. There were a few times I was a little lost as to which point of view I was in, but it usually was when they were all together and it didn’t take long to straighten out.

Plot

After a rough start (It was difficult listening to the professor right at the beginning) this book quickly grabbed hold of me and I just had to know how it ended! I had to know what caused the explosion and how the author was going to resolve the conflict. I could see so many different paths stretching out from the single plot point. This is the primary reason I enjoyed this book so much – the way in which the author weaved the characters and plot together where you kept guessing what was going to come next!

Most disappointing part of the book was so much left unresolved. I wasn’t fully satisfied with how the author left things – even with the additional twist at the end. Which sort of explains the abruptness of the ending, but I’m not sure if it was satisfactory based on the content of the rest of the book. I’m afraid to say much more than humans will be humans and uncertainty and fear will drive even the best people to do terrible things. But with the destruction and chaos there is also progresses and beauty.

Overall

This book will challenge you and make you question every step of the way what is right and what is real. That is the true strength of the book. I expect this author will only grow with each book – I suspect this is not his first book either. I could see the effortless ability to weave in multiple points of view together in a clever way. Now if only he had just nailed an ending that made sense and wrapped everything up a little better.

This was very character driven with multiple characters taking front and center. Mostly it was easy to follow along and the writing was satisfactory, although at times excessively wordy. My biggest surprise was that this was a ‘hard’ sci-fi with lots of interesting angles and scientific information, but it was mixed in with simplistic language like variations on ‘looked.’ I started tracking it about 25% of the way through when two ‘looked’ showed up on a single page (on an smartphone sized screen) and by the end I had amassed over 60 of them. It was difficult to merry such simplistic language with such advanced scientific ideas, a world which was built in such a way that I felt it could actually happen.

Rating

4 Stars

This book was a real treat. Amusing, scientific, and with interesting characters submerged into a mind-bending plot.

This is a voluntary review.

Reader (Affinity Series, #2) by J.S. Lenore

Summary

After nearly dying at the hands of an uncontrollable ghost, Detective Kim Phillips is finally back to work with the Chicago Police Department. Sure, she’s shackled to a desk, sifting through cold cases, but it’s better than being stuck in her apartment. It lets her focus on something other than her unreliable powers, the sudden influx of Turned ghosts in the Windy City, and the continuing tension between her and her old partner, Detective Riley Cross.

That all changes when she finds the case file of a missing girl and is sucked into a vision from thirty years ago. Caught between the present and the past, Kim struggles to find answers about the case and herself. Can Kim solve the mystery of her changing powers and find the girl, or will her tenuous grasp on her powers and the investigation spiral out of control?

Characters

Gosh it was good to see Kim again. Plus I really loved Riley (Cross) in the first book. They made such a crazy good team, which was hard to see them working on different projects…in the beginning. Unlike the first book though, Kim is scarred and struggling. She is still recovering and at first her powers aren’t working well. She is terrified by all the changes, which is only made worse when she reads. The one thing I didn’t like is how reckless she can still be. That is why Riley is such a good balance for her, he is much more conservative. New character: Andrea Banks, sounds like a ball of fun and I so want Kim and her to be frenemies.

Plot

Like the first book there are a lot of moving parts, but this one was much less violent and action packed. Instead Kim is trying to solve a cold case and it doesn’t end the way I expected – huge kudos there. In addition to that Kim is finding all these ‘energy wells’ that have turned ghosts bound to them. She gets to show down with them and learns some terrifying things about herself. This book is much more character driven. Not to mention all the crazy things going on between her and Cross..and with Cross in general. I won’t ruin anything, but just wow! Can’t wait to see where that is headed.

Overall

This is a cold case and that sort of matches the quiet subdued force of this book. Unlike Burner (book 1) that was big flames and fast paced, this one was much slower with spurts of fire. It was sort of like Burner was the fire and Reader is the burning coals that the fire leaves behind, still powerful but in a different way. I feel like Reader addresses the fallout of Burner and all that happened there. Plus bringing in new complexities as it focuses more on the characters and their relationships then the action that was in Burner. Always a pleasure to read this author’s flowing style, mixed with their punchy dialogue.

My only frustration was this book opened more doors without closing old ones, and felt unnecessarily drawn out as a result. I know Kim has more growing to do, which I hope to see in the future books, but this slow burn left too much unresolved. If the other books were out and I could just pick it up, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it…but  now is the waiting game. In away multiple open doors are nearly as bad as cliffhangers, which I wouldn’t say this book has at all.  Though it does have an end that made me laugh out loud!

Rating

4.5 stars (rounded up)

A great second book in the Affinity Series. I’m looking forward to reading future books in this series and seeing where the author takes it. I just hope future books resolve more instead of creating just more questions.

Whiskey Kills by Lolli Powell

Summary

Big cities are known to be dangerous, but former New Yorker and bar owner Ricki Fontaine is finding the small town of Waterton, Ohio, is proving to be the murder capital of the world—well, at least her world.

The new Top Shelf is open for business, but business as usual for Ricki and the Shelf translates to another dead guy. Ricki’s friend, Ruby Fogarty, is charged with murdering her boyfriend by clubbing him to death with a bottle of whiskey. The police consider the case closed, but Ricki is convinced Ruby is innocent and sets out to find the real murderer. Although Waterton police detective Gabriel Russell is crazy about Ricki, he isn’t too crazy about her trying to do his job.

The killer’s not too happy about it either.

Characters

Ricki is fantastic. She is charming and stubborn. Her antics should get her into more trouble than they do, which tells me she is lucky. She touch and warm and so many things that all seem to fit! Gabe is…*fans self*…adorable. I love their relationship together and I hope they make it for the long haul. I’m a little iffy on how good of a detective he is during parts of the book but that was minor. The supporting characters are varied and vivid. Adam is just the greatest – so much love for him. Not to mention Ricki’s mom and stepdad! All around great characters.

Plot

At its heart this is a sleuthing novel – a whodunnit if you will. Yet it is so much more. It touches on social issues, family, grief, and greed. There is even romance – although I don’t get her obsession with eyebrows! Following Ricki as she fumbles around trying to help her friend out was nail biting and entertaining. Who killed Frank? That’s the first question and boy do you go on a journey to get that answer. As she digs deeper into the truth, even she is surprised by the ending! Plus she learns a bit about herself and how awesome Jasper (her cat) is. Good luck figuring out all the angles, because I missed some!

Overall

This book just grabbed on a wouldn’t let go. Despite its few drawbacks and some unrealistic moments, I just loved it. This is a book that you overlook its pitfalls because overall it was such fun and just pure entertainment. Plus it felt like you were with Ricki at times, and she was telling you what happened – recounting the events rather than reading a book which was amazing! This is what a good book is supposed to do. One I started I just had to know the ending and I have to say, I loved even that! I was surprised by the ending (no who did it), but by the accidental way in which Ricki stumbles upon the truth. I thought the book could have gone one of two ways and although I guessed who the killer was (mostly) I was in for a surprise! Things are not always what they seem.

Downside was this was book 2 in a series. I wish I had read the first book before this one because this book does give away what happens in the first book so I can’t go back now. If the first book was as good as this one, it must be worth reading!

Rating

5 stars

Such a fun read! I was completely absorbed and just had to finish it! It took me quite a bit longer to figure everything out and even then I missed some things. A great mystery read for sure!

This review is voluntary.

The Boy Next Door by Lolli Powell

Summary

When Laney Mitchell was fifteen, she babysat the cute four-year old who lived next door. His family moved away when he was five. Twenty-six years later, he’s all grown up, but he still wants to cuddle with his babysitter!

Laney’s daughter has other plans for him, while a hunky friend of a friend and Laney’s ex-husband both have other plans for her. By avoiding romance in the three years since her divorce, Laney has kept things simple. Now life has suddenly become very complicated!

Characters

This is a tricky one. For one I liked Laney…most of the time. She grew in the book and I liked her much more by the end of the book than I did at the middle. I don’t feel like I every really knew Bryce other than the details of his body. This novel really needed a second point of view because the entire time I second guessed Bryce’s interest in her. Which means I never invested in their relationship. It was only made worse by Laney’s crazy ex, Greg—who was over the top and the cause of most of the drama. Rex felt like a mirror in which Laney could reflect on if she should go to Bryce or follow societies standards of being with an older man versus a younger one. I liked how straight forward he was.

Plot

This book is supposed to be a romance but it feels more like an imaged fancy. As though we’ve slipped into a dream that turns into a sexual fantasy. Which is about when it stopped feeling less like a romance and more like an erotica. It was already very lust focused but I was surprised at the absolute lack of detail. I wouldn’t say the sensual scenes were very hot at all which was surprising considering how focused Laney is on Bryce’s body.  In the end it felt like a mellow erotica.

As an aside there was the side story of Laney’s business. She has this workout business she is trying to sell that she co-owns with her ex. The book built up to this big reveal but the twist isn’t much of a twist and it was a huge cliche.

Overall

The writing was very straight forward, almost technically written, but would go down rabbit holes. Almost like everything was an understatement. In a romance it really comes down to characters and I struggled with them in this book. Bryce’s persistence and Laney’s mostly sexual attraction to him really made their romance feel thin. It really didn’t take root until the end and by then it was a little late for me. That being said the ending was very sweet and it was nice to see a couple who defied societies standards. Despite the turbulence of the book I was glad to see Bryce and Laney give it a go. It was a dream ending for both of them.

Rating

2.5 Stars (rounded to 3 stars)

I was very split on this book – I liked parts of it but struggled to get through it during lulls. It also toed the line between sweet and erotica.

This is a voluntary review.