Technodiversity by Theodore Koukouvitis

Summary

Enter a world where rogue software animates junk to life…

Born on a blasted world where mechanical creatures form spontaneously in the wake of interstellar apocalypse, Rem of the Recycle Canyon must scour laser-lit landscapes for lost knowledge and rip technocreatures apart for scraps of lost technology.

But when she decides to set her first catch free, Rem disturbs the ancient balance between her people and their spacefaring relatives who crave her world’s riches, finding herself in a post-biological world of trouble.

Rem’s defiance against the so-called “gods of hell-space”, and her surprising affection towards her world’s technocreatures, kick off an explosive misadventure that will challenge her convictions and test every skill she doesn’t believe she has.

Will she rise above age-old prejudices, outsmart a computer-god, keep her feelings for a charming but suspicious outsider under control, reach the mythical Hologram Valley and survive its secret?

If so, she might succeed where legendary heroes of old failed and discover the impossible solution to protect her world’s technodiversity… and perhaps even find love in the unlikeliest of places.

Otherwise, she might leave her last breath under a techbeast’s chassis — or worse — find herself banished in hell-space!

Characters

I don’t know where I’m at on Rem, but I for sure liked her better at the end of the novel then I did at the beginning. She was much more redeeming in my mind. I think part of my problem came from the gender switching on the planet, which was interesting but did test what could make sense. It was great at points but tripped me up more than once because it felt almost like she was trying too hard. I actually didn’t realize for a while that the main character was a girl. This was only made worse because her idea of romance was purely physical based and so adding anything else made her seem really shallow. On that note I loved a lot of the supporting characters and my favorite is Sol. What a fun and unpredictable character!

Plot

This book just throws you into the deep end. Thrusting the reader knee deep into the world surrounding Rem. There are actually multiple stories going on within this story. The bigger arcing theme is two parts – one romantic and the other adventure. The Tech learns and it knows. It was full of action and adventure with massive sci-fi overtones and even some humor. The main character is reluctant at first but once she sets her mind to prove she can do it, she jumps in with both feet. A little impulsive? Sure, but also fun!

Overall

Holy world building. This is an intensely immersive world that is well thought out and expertly built. A beautiful shattered world that has advancing tech that is unique and extensive. The flow is a little wonky because some of the chapters are insanely long. While others are quite short and manageable. It was particularly difficult in one of the middle chapters where there was a debate going on in the ‘council’ that seemed to just drag on. It could have been shortened, but thankfully once it wraps up it was the last of its time. Once the second half of the novel starts, it pretty much was page after page because I wanted to know the ending. Let’s just say a lot happens in this book and it keeps you interested.

Biggest complaint is the use of the word ‘badass,’ which was way over done! Gah! To the point of annoying through the second half of the novel.

Rating 

4.5 stars (rounded down)

A stunning sci-fi novel that is an immersive treat! Great world building, a passable main character (thank goodness for Sol!), and a fascinating sci-fi read is worth the time!

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Seeking Dr. Magic by Scott Spotson

Summary

Chaos reigns around the world. Strange creatures, accorded the title “Phantom Ninjas” by the media, are leaping off tall buildings and somersaulting back up without any scratch – and then disappear. There follows more spontaneous acts of magic, confounding the world. Who – or what – is responsible? In the middle of the mystery arrives Detective Hetfield, a private investigator just recently released from the FBI due to an on-the-job injury. Hetfield, who arose to fame as a star witness in the murder trial of a beloved actress, uses the media to put forward the theory that a person of extraordinary magical powers is behind all the incidents, and labels him Dr. Magic. Hetfield gets much more than what he bargained for when that powerful being does exist – in the form of a young man long disillusioned with his past – and cruelly takes him up on his offer.

Characters

There are two characters – former Detective Tony Hetfield and “Dr. Magic.” Each of them are very unique and everyone else feels like lifeless blobs that are just filler for the story constructed around these two characters. I really liked the inner strength and determination of Tony. He has to be one of my favorite characters written by this author. “Dr. Magic” has a somewhat tragic story but is an adult that never had to grow up. Very much felt like he had peter pan syndrome—having magic helps…

Plot

This is very much a modern mystery with an urban magic feel. I wouldn’t say this necessarily a fantasy in a traditional sense but it did have that super hero feel and a magical abilities piece. There are lots and lots of layers to this story and the strength if this entire novel rests on its plot. Tony is driven to find the identity of Dr. Magic, but is also very principals—so what happens when the most dangerous person meets in an unstoppable force?

Overall

This book was very easy to read and enjoyable to turn the page to find out what came next. A few twists and turns kept things interesting where I wasn’t 100% sure where the story was going to go. I appreciated that there were a few surprises where I was like “Where is he?” out loud. Any book that can make me do that is good! The downside was the secondary characters. They could have used some development to round out the novel and bring extra depth to the characters. Some were decent but others felt very flat.

In short this is a great plot and okay characters – so overall a good read! I’d recommend this book ahead of most of Spotson’s other books just because I felt this book had the best flow. It was pretty consistent and I never felt bogged down by details or overwhelmed by information coming in. Instead I was able to follow along and just get immersed into the story. I didn’t love the ending, I felt like the author wanted to give more closure and show that these characters were moving in a certain direction, but I actually would have preferred if it ended one chapter earlier. I get why it was done and actually appreciated the open-ended conclusion.

Rating

4 Stars

Overall an enjoyable read that was an easy page turner. If you like mysteries where you are following along as each layer is peeled away this is a great book. If you also like magic, this delivers!

This is a voluntary review.

Diamond Marked (Tale of El’Anret #1-3) by Melody Klink

Summary

Inside a mortal girl lies the heart of the Queen of Diamonds, true ruler over El’Anret, the world of Faerie.

Inside a Half-Human, Half-Fae boy lives the soul of a Stag King, mysterious and powerful creature of legend, capable of transforming worlds… or destroying them.

And neither of them belong.

In a world of myths and monsters, it will take them both to usurp a renegade queen— one who stole the crown and made the whole of El’Anret bend to her will.

The Faerie world will never be the same.

DIAMOND MARKED: The Tale of El’Anret combines the stories of the Faerie and Mortal worlds into a single collection. Queen of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds, and King of Diamonds are included in their Author Preferred text editions.

Part 1: QUEEN OF DIAMONDS

I didn’t realize it at the time but this was like watching the first season of Once Upon A Time – terrible but necessary. And just like that first season I don’t know if I would have continued reading from this first ‘section,’ it was very YA and the writing was stilted and somewhat boring. At parts it was even over the top and full of YA tropes. Even though the first book wasn’t very good, it didn’t stay that way. I’m not going to give too much away but I am going to say that I appreciated the end of this. That it wasn’t ‘happily ever after’ and that there were consequences for their actions. I did not connect with Leigh or Gideon which may have been the biggest problem.

Not very good but if you can get through this, I promise the next two parts are worth it. – 2.5 stars

Part 2: JACK OF DIAMONDS

As disappointed as I was in the first book, that quickly faded once Jack comes into the works. It becomes more complicated as it sheds its overly YA skin and takes on a whole new form of awesomeness. Suddenly it is highly imaginative, the plot opens up and even gets a little dark. It was engaging and I found myself turning pages and staying up later than I should to find out what happens. The irritation with the young character in the first section is balanced out here and Jack is such a likable character. I was also really happy to see Leigh come into her own.

I absolutely love this one the best – even with the cliffhanger at the end. – 5 Stars

Part 3: KING OF DIAMONDS

A great conclusion to these short novellas. This book went much darker and showed some overall elements of society that go poorly. That evil wins when good people do nothing. The world also expanded and grew and the battle scenes at the end, though a little long, were awesome. I felt like I finally had a great picture of what the author was trying to portray. The writing also improved and had better flow. Though Leigh’s undying love I came to like Gideon.

It also had a very sweet after ending that was very satisfying. I’m not always happy about those, but in this instance it was wonderful. – 4 Stars

Overall:

If you are going to buy them, you might as well get this box set and read them all the way through. Where Leigh felt a little flat, Jack eventually balanced her out and she came into her own. The world building greatly improves from book to book, as does the writing.

Rating:

4 Stars

Overall I enjoyed this collection of stories. The further I went into the story the more I enjoyed them. If you like YA stories that have fairies – this is a worth while read.

I received this book for a free and voluntarily review.

Fool Me Twice by Philippa Jane Keyworth

Summary

In the gaming hells of eighteenth century London, orphan Caro Worth is leading a double life. By day she plays a proper gentlewoman on the lookout for a wealthy husband. By night she plays the infamous Angelica, her fictional half-sister with a talent for cards and an ability to finance the life her respectable self has built. An introduction to a rich Marquis brings marriage and security within Caro’s grasp…until the arrival of the unpredictable and totally ineligible Mr. Tobias Felton.

Dismayed by Felton’s persistent appearances, shocking frankness, and enigmatic green eyes, Caro watches helplessly as he comes closer than anyone to guessing her secret, but when complete and utter ruin threatens, she finds that Felton’s suspicions just might become her salvation. As the walls she has built to protect herself crumble down around her, Caro learns that no matter how careful your plans, life and love have a habit of falling quite spectacularly out of control!

Characters

Caro is a feisty but desperate woman. She doesn’t want to abandon all home so instead she assumes the persona of another. Angelica has some freedoms that Caro does not – like speaking her mind. Tobias is a bloody mess. Being the youngest he hasn’t found anything worth while to invest his time or energy in so he just drifts. Rebecca is adorable – I loved her more than Caro most of the time.

Despite the fact that in the end and over all I like Caro, she could be down right wishy washy and irritating. Actually I didn’t like her very much for the second half of the book. Especially after her secret gets out. Instead of rising up – she had to be saved by the men around her. That was the most frustrating thing about this entire book. I thought it would be more about her saving herself but no. So fair warning there.

Plot

Caro’s double life as Angelica catches up with her. There wasn’t a lot of lead in to the bad guy being a bad guy but it was believable. Entitled and malicious. Surprisingly the romance is as important as the rest of the plot. I believe that even some men would enjoy this book due to its duel plot nature. The romantic aspect was really secondary for most of the book – only the last 25% really felt like a historical romance. Which was the worst part of the book in my opinion.

Overall

Absolutely gripping read. The writing flowed well and was at a fast paced tempo. It did a good job of sticking with the era and its colorful vernacular. At times the author overshadowed that something (mostly bad) was about to happen, which took me out of the book. There were a few POV shifts as well but also minimal. Not to mention that the grammatical errors were almost non-existent.

The characters were alright, Rebecca being my favorite and frankly Caro being my least favorite. At least the ‘bad guy’ (don’t want to give away who it is) is consistent – Caro isn’t throughout the book. She is all over the map. The only consistency is her inconsistency. The setting was well done, although more than once breaking the rules of proper society. Which may or may not be a good thing! The scenes between Caro and Tobias are very sweet though and by the end I went from not really liking to Tobias to loving him.

Rating

4 stars

The duel plot and fluid writing that is gripping and interesting is the reason for this rating. Fantastic read for any vacation!

I received a free copy in exchange of an honest review.

 

West Quarry Farm by James Stillwood

Summary

He’s still out there. Still doing the same thing. It’s not just the fact he kills them that’s shocking, but it’s the way he does it. Can you be certain it won’t be you next?

Working at a supermarket, living with her teenage daughter and caring for her elderly mother, on the surface, Mel William’s life appears to be ordinary. But Mel is on a quest. She is determined to find the man who harmed her daughter, and nothing will stop her from hunting him down.
With a loving husband, a young daughter and plans to expand her own business, to the outsider, Rebecca Stead would seem to have the perfect life. Then, one day, she is thrown off course by a chance meeting.
A horrifying event binds these two women together.

Characters

I thought the summary misrepresented who we would see the most of. I expected we’d spend most of the book with Mel Williams but there are twice as many chapters with Phil (Matteson) and Rebecca Stead. This is important because I wasn’t a fan of Rebecca at all. In fact most times I just wanted her chapters to end. Mel on the other hand I had a lot of respect for. Phil is one bad dude and the author did an amazing job making him creepy and calmly evil. Also Jenny (Rebecca’s friend) is a hoot.

Plot

The author had a lot of aspects running at once to keep the reader guessing. It was suspenseful in a slow and ‘not sure when this is going to get really bad’ sort of way. I felt the author spent too much time on Rebecca’s life but I get that it was to build her character and the suspense. I actually felt really bad for her husband and daughter. Rebecca made choices and was a freaking idiot and I couldn’t bring myself to like her for the duration of the book. The author added in a stalker which was great.

Overall

This was such a British psychological thriller. The setting was set to match this. It actually reminded me a big of Blood on the Wire. It was unnerving and suspenseful but took a long time to have something happen. It had weird moments that were meant to increase the intensify. Then the action spikes for the characters and is resolved a chapter later. Thankfully there is an epilogue which shows where all the characters are.

The writing was easy to follow, although there were some British terms I wasn’t sure on. There were limited errors, mostly punctuation errors, but I did note an overuse of colons. The characters were mostly consistent but Rebecca was all over the board emotionally. Honestly she was such a mess that it made the plot believable, but also took me out of the suspense of the book more than  once.

Rating

4 stars

The suspense in the books builds and builds. It was unpredictable and it took me awhile to figure out where it was going. I was pleasantly surprised by the ending even if I didn’t like all the characters.

I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sehmah’s Truth (Beneath the Willow Book 1) by A.J. Culey

DOES NOT STANDALONE. 

Summary

She created his world and made him the hero of her story. Now she’s living that story with him.

Samantha and her twin brother spent their childhood creating an imaginary world beneath the willow tree in their backyard. Two years after her brother’s death, Samantha is unexpectedly transported to their fantasy world, where she meets Takeem, the hero of every story she’s ever written.

With Takeem by her side, and danger at every turn, Samantha discovers the world she created is nothing like what she imagined. Having somehow landed in the middle of her own evolving story, she must now find the courage to live it.

Characters

There is a lot of jumping around of characters in the book. From Takeem/Samantha, to the history before Takeem, and back to Jennifer on Earth. I felt like a ping pong ball sometimes. The author could do with making these transitions a little clearer for eBook, but it wasn’t terrible, just disjointed at times.

That being said I had a hard time liking characters. They all had such flaws and such heartbreaks. However, the more I read the more I liked them. Many of their flaws fell away – particularly Takeem. Samantha was still depressing and grief stricken from time to time but she started to come alive more and more – making her a better character.

Plot

This plot is a slow burn. It takes a while to makes its point and for the full plot to form, but when it does it is quite enjoyable. By the time I was halfway through the book I raced through the last half. It took me 12 days to get through the first half of the book and three to get through the other half. The creativity of the world and the art in which the author portrays it really takes shape in the second half. This is likely due to character introduction and the flashbacks taking over much of the first part of the book.

The plot, like the character’s backstories and overall emotions, is dark. The world she created; Lutia. It is dreary and dark. She brings light but her own light is dimmed by recent tragedies. The world of Lutia is as broken and messed up as she is. I don’t want to ruin anything, but this plot as more depth than it first seems. It is important to give it time – at least 50%. This book does not standalone – the ending is clearly meant to go into a second book.

Overall

This book is bleak and I’m not sure it is suitable for most YA readers. It is SUPER dark starting out. No one seems to be happy in this book at the beginning…or for most of it. That is the first thing that hits me. I sighed like a billion times for the first 25% of this book because the characters are just so miserable. It dredges up deeper darker feelings; loss, betrayal, unhappy choices, death, and oppression. Not normally my cup of tea, and then the author hints at more going on – which a little more push than earlier. Once I figured that out it started to flow better.

The characters are interesting but some of the secondary characters seem a little generic at times. This improves as the book goes on but I didn’t get a good feel for them until much later. That being said, if you can get over the darker themes, this book is quite good. The reason comes down to the world building. I freaking love this world. The plot and characters can go hang next to the vivid imagery of this world. The plot was good, the characters were okay, but the WORLD was amazing. From the willow trees (Shrouded Ones) to Huk. Amazing imaginary.

Rating

4 Stars

I liked it. I couldn’t merry up the darker themes with the YA feel at times, but I still enjoyed it. I don’t know if I would recommend it to anyone under the age of 16. Honestly it wasn’t until after I finished it that I decided I liked it and it was more because of the world and the creativity of it than anything else.  If you like creative fantasy worlds – this book is for you.

I received a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.

 

The Martian by Andy Weir

Summary

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive.

But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

Characters

Mark Watney is a dick. I don’t know how many times I said that throughout the book, but I know it was enough that it felt like the truest theme of the book. A hilarious dick, I will give him that. You spend lots of time in Mark’s company throughout the book so you better like him at least a little. He is a great and vivid character. The supporting characters fell way behind on the spotlight time but were great supporting characters. Mitch is hilariously jerky as well. Commander Lewis is noble. Vogel is a conflicted leader. They all have a role to play.

Plot

Mark is stuck on Mars. The entire world gets behind one person, spends oodles of dollars and puts others at risk because that is the ‘good’ side of humanity. That every life matters. Even if the author didn’t intend this to be a theme, it shone through for me; right up there with the human will to live and the ingenuity to survive. It was an impressive book but you have to like the level of detail that the author goes into on what Mark does to survive. Also the jumping back and forth between Mark and the characters one earth and the rest of the crew on Hermes, is pretty easy to follow.

Overall

This is set up in two ways; a normal 3rd point of view and journal entries. It brings the fact that Mark is stuck on Mars all that more real. I thought it was an interesting dynamic to swing back and forth between. That being said I hated the ominous snippets before something ‘bad’ happened to Mark. They were weird narrations that felt unnecessary and were disruptive to me. I enjoyed most of the narrations by Mark but some of them made me sigh because they became repetitive and after a while the pattern of things that were going to happen became predictable. The ending could easily be disappointing to most – it felt abrupt to me but I was content with it.

Rating

4 stars

The overall predictability and sometimes repetitive nature of the book didn’t diminish my like of it too much. It is still a good science fiction and well worth the read. This book is hilarious and I agree that duct tape is truly the best invention ever!

I’m wondering now if the movie is better…I’ll update this later…